Arizona BurningDecember 7, 1941, will forever be remembered as “the date that will live in infamy.”

As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered those historic words before Congress on December 8, smoke still poured from the heavily damaged battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma, six other battleships, and 11 smaller vessels after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, headquarters of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

QuotesWhile impersonal numbers do not adequately tell the story of the tremendous human loss, both physical and emotional, here are some of the staggering statistics from the devastating attack:

  • - 2,008 sailor killed, including 1,177 aboard the Arizona and 429 aboard the Oklahoma
  • - 710 sailors wounded aboard ships and ashore
  • - 218 Army Air Corps killed and 364 wounded in attacks on Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows Fields
  • - 109 Marines killed and 69 wounded
  • - 68 civilians killed and 35 wounded

Two of the eight battleships moored along Battleship Row would be lost forever. The Arizona still rests at the bottom of the harbor, visible directly below the gleaming white memorial sitting atop her leaky hull, and the Oklahoma sank on her way to the scrap yard in California. Remarkably, all 17 of the other ships were repaired and returned to service in time to help the new war effort.

QuotesAwakened by the sudden threat from Japan, the United States formally entered World War II that day with President Roosevelt’s words and Congress’ official declaration of war.

Although the attack on Pearl Harbor dealt a significant blow to the US Navy’s capabilities, even the Japanese high command was not convinced they had done enough. Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto stated shortly afterward, “I can run wild for six months…after that, I have no expectation of success.” His words appeared prescient as six months later to the day, the Japanese naval forces lost the decisive Battle of Midway and were a greatly diminished threat as a stand-alone force thereafter.

Ever resilient, the country rallied from the dark days and emerged victorious, accepting Japan’s formal surrender four years later in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri, the largest US battleship ever built.

Arizona Memorial