December 7th, 1941 – A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Every December 7th we pause and remember what happened at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The sneak attack by the Japanese on our Pacific Fleet while they slept dragged us into World War 2 and forever changed our nation.

Our Losses

According to the Navy, our nation suffered the following:

  • 2,335 Sailors, Marines, and soldiers were killed in action
  • 68 civilians killed by explosions or stray fire
    • USS Arizona (BB 39)
    • USS Oklahoma (BB 37)
    • USS Utah (AG 16)
    • USS California (BB 44)
    • USS West Virginia (BB 48)
    • USS Oglala (CM 4)
    • USS Sotoyoma (YT 9)
    • Floating Drydock (YFD 2)
    • USS Maryland (BB 46)
    • USS Nevada (BB 36)
    • USS Tennessee (BB 43)
    • USS Pennsylvania (BB 38)
    • USS Cassin (DD 372)
    • USS Downes (DD 375)
    • USS Shaw (DD 373)
    • USS Helm (DD 388)
    • USS Helena (CL 50)
    • USS Honolulu (CL 48)
    • USS Raleigh (CL 7)
    • USS Curtiss (AV 4)
    • USS Vestal (AR 4)

The History of the USS Arizona Memorial

Even though the memorial is one of Hawaii’s biggest tourist attractions, most Americans will never have a chance to visit and are only vaguely familiar with what it is. The next few pictures explain its unique appearance and significance.

Above is an official picture of the USS Arizona while she was still in service. Notice the two tall towers known as “superstructures” in the center of the ship. The front most part of the ship contained a powder magazine full of explosive dust used to shoot projectiles from her big guns. This magazine took a direct hit from a Japanese bomb causing a massive chain explosion that gutted the ship and caused her to sink.

The Arizona sank straight down in the water, unlike most of the other ships that tilted to one side. This is why the two superstructures remained upright.

Most of the debris from the superstructures was removed, leaving the bulk of the ship underwater. The bodies were deemed unrecoverable and left inside, forever sealed in their underwater tomb.

This aerial shot below shows the wreckage of the USS Arizona, visible only a couple of feet below the waterline, with the memorial stretching across her width.

The names of the 1,177 Sailors who lost their lives onboard the Arizona are listed on the marble wall at the memorial.

Known as the “Arizona’s Tears” or as the “Black Tears,” the ship slowly leaks oil into the water.

Recognized Heroes

It was a terrible day in American history, but it would’ve been a lot worse if not for the courageous actions of thousands of American servicemen. Below are some of the more notable and frequently recognized ones, but every person who served that day are national heroes.

Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich was working in the boiler room aboard the USS Utah when she took two torpedoes from Japanese aircraft. The ship was listing to one side as she took on water and it was obvious that she was about to sink. Chief Tomich ordered his men to evacuate the boiler room and stayed behind to secure the boiler, knowing that if he didn’t they would explode and kill hundreds of men. He went down with the ship and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

Lieutenant Commander Samuel Fuqua (above) was on the quarterdeck of the USS Arizona when the first bomb landed nearby, knocking him unconscious. When he recovered, he began directing firefighting operations when the second bomb landed on the Arizona, killing most of the crew instantly. He survived the blast but stayed onboard to help evacuate the wounded, being one of the last men to abandon ship.

Doris Miller (above) was trained as a cook but during the attack he manned an anti-aircraft gun and helped tend to the wounded. He was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Dorie was later killed in action when his ship was torpedoed in the Pacific.

Chief Petty Officer John Finn was in bed, asleep with his wife 15 miles away from base when the attack started. He threw on some clothes and raced to base where he dragged a machine gun out of storage and placed it in the middle of a clearing where he had a clear view of the sky. He said, “I can’t honestly say if I hit any but I shot at every damn plane I could see.” The Japanese definitely saw him, taking several strafing runs at his position because of his intense defensive fire, causing 20 shrapnel wounds, a broken foot, and an incapacitated left arm. Chief Finn was medically evacuated for immediate treatment but returned to duty that same day to help load airplanes. He recently passed away at 100 years of age in San Diego, CA.

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