Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Territory, back then). The sudden aerial assault out of the blue of a sunny morning on Oahu marked America’s entry into World War II, a conflict that for us lasted over three years and nine months. I’ve visited Pearl Harbor many times since the 1980s, and each time I do, I am still moved by the visible evidence of the events that took place there.
More than 2400 Americans died in the strike from six aircraft carriers of the Japanese Imperial Navy. The attack lasted over two hours, resulting in the sinking of four battleships and severe damage to several other battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. Hundreds of American aircraft were destroyed–mostly on the ground.
Every American should visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial & Visitor Center, now run by the National Park Service. The USS Arizona Memorial is maintained by the U.S. Navy, which runs a shuttle boat from the visitor center out to the Memorial on Battleship Row.
The Iowa-class battleship USS Missouri is moored just to the west, and standing on her deck one can view the site where the Japanese surrendered in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
At the Arizona Memorial, one enters the shrine over the sunken battleship where those entombed aboard are remembered:
Bunker oil still leaks from the wreck.
On Ford Island, bullet scars in the concrete apron and bullet holes in the hangars that house the Pacific Aviation Museum are still visible:
Out at Schofield Barracks north of Pearl Harbor, a P-40 Warhawk replica stands at the edge of Wheeler Field. Dozens of American planes were destroyed on the ground here in the opening moments of the attack.
Aboard USS Missouri, a visitor can close the circle of the Pacific War, standing on the spot where WWII ended that September of 1945.
To those lost at Pearl Harbor, rest in peace. To those who restored peace by serving in the Pacific War, accept our continued thanks. And to my fellow Americans: Remain vigilant, and never forget.