(Dec. 7) -- It lives on in infamy.
On Dec. 7 each year, Americans commemorate Pearl Harbor Day in memory of the thousands who were killed or injured when the Japanese attacked an American naval base in Hawaii that day in 1941.
The attack is frequently cited as a major turning point in World War II. In his book "Smart Power," foreign policy expert Ted Galen Carpenter gives his take on the significance of the event. Carpenter writes:
Pearl Harbor plunged America into the maelstrom of World War II, a struggle that involved the core security interests of the republic and symbolized rival visions for the future of the planet. Japan and its allies were making a bid for dominance in their respective regions and beyond. Had they succeeded, there would have been a major shift in the global balance of power -- to the extreme detriment of the United States.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous address to the nation in which he refers to Dec. 7, 1941, as "a date which will live in infamy" can be seen below:
In remembrance of Pearl Harbor, Surge Desk brings you five key facts about the event:
1. Events leading up to the attack
After Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, the majority of Americans thought the country should not intervene in World War II. This attitude was nothing new, as it fell in line with the policy of isolationism American leaders had implemented in varying degrees since the concept was first described by Thomas Paine in his 1776 pamphlet "Common Sense."
However, increasing tensions with European nations -- and with Japan -- signaled that America wouldn't be able to stay out of the global conflict for long.
The United States and other nations had placed trade embargoes on Japan to check its expansion, but toward the end of 1941, Japan had managed to capture key territories and oil resources in parts of Asia. America had refused to lift existing embargoes unless Japan left some of these territories, so Gen. Hideki Tojo secretly decided that Nov. 29 would be the last date Japan would accept a settlement with America to lift trade embargoes.
When the date passed, Japan devised a plan to invade territories across Asia and the Pacific but was afraid of interference from the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbor. Thus, they commenced the attack.
Sinking of the USS Arizona, courtesy of National Park Service
2. Aftermath of the attack: American casualties
According to the National Park Service's website:
- 2,388 Americans died in the attack
- 1,178 Americans were wounded
- 21 American ships were sunk or damaged
- 323 American aircraft were destroyed or damaged
- 1,177 Americans involved in the attack were serving on the USS Arizona
- 333 servicemen serving on the USS Arizona survived the attack
- 64 Japanese died during the attack, though the number of injuries is unknown
- 5 Japanese ships were destroyed
- 103 Japanese aircraft were destroyed or damaged
4. Commemorating the day
In his book "Pearl Harbor," Paul Dowswell offers his take on the legacy of Pearl Harbor:
For 60 years the Pearl Harbor attack has lived up to President Roosevelt's description as "a date that will live in infamy." It has been invoked to remind Americans about the consequences of treachery by foreign powers and complacency in government. The United States' foreign policy has been based on the thinking "No more Pearl Harbors" ever since.
Pearl Harbor Day is not a federal holiday, but the day is often commemorated in U.S. schools. In addition, flags around the country are lowered to half-staff.
5. Pearl Harbor visitors
An average of 4,000 people visit the site of the Pearl Harbor attack each day, and 1.5 million people visit the USS Arizona memorial each year, according to the Pearl Harbor Tour's website.
A video of survivors returning to Pearl Harbor can be found here.