Pearl Harbor Day: When Is It Observed and Why Is It Important?

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the site of a U.S. Navy and Army base.

Not only did the attack catapult the United States into World War II, it also resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries for army and navy servicemen and women.

The President at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously proclaimed that December 7th was “a date which will live in infamy.”

Since the 1960s, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day has been a nationally observed date when we remember and honor the fallen and injured soldiers from the devastating events.

Along with the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Pearl Harbor remains one of the most significant attacks on U.S. soil.

What is the Pearl Harbor Date for 2018?

In 2018, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day will fall on Friday, December 7th. It will mark the 77th year since the attack took place in 1941.

Official government observances and services will take place at Pearl Harbor, at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Additionally, at the White House and all other official government buildings, the American flag will be flown at half-mast. This is a symbol of honor for those who died.

A Brief History of the Pearl Harbor Attack

The morning of December 7th, 360 Japanese warplanes and dive bombers surprised the military base at Pearl Harbor.

The attack destroyed much of the U.S.’s Pacific fleet, including five battleships, three destroyer ships, and 200 aircraft. Seven more ships were badly damaged or sank to the ocean floor.

Meanwhile, the attack resulted in a devastating loss of life: 1,200 people were wounded and 2,400 were killed.

The next day, in a famous speech, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to approve a resolution to declare war on Japan. In a unanimous vote, Senate approved the resolution. The House of Representatives had one dissenter, a Representative from Montana who was a pacifist.

Within three days, both Germany and Italy had declared war against the U.S. along with Japan.

America joined the Allies in fighting the war, and American forces made a major contribution to the eventual Allied success overseas.

Key Monuments to Pearl Harbor

There are a few major monuments that commemorate the attack in the United States. The two most important are, of course, located in Hawaii at the very sites where ships were bombed and sunk.

The U.S.S. Utah Memorial

The Utah was one of the battleships that sank during the attacks. A memorial to the crew who died on board the Utah is located on the shore of Ford Island, near the shipwreck.

The U.S.S. Utah shipwreck itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

Nearly 1,200 crew died onboard the Arizona during the attack. The ship sank and now serves as a tomb and memorial. In 1962, a marble structure was built over the shipwreck for visitors to learn the history, hear the stories from survivors, and pay respects to the lives lost.

How Do People Observe Pearl Harbor Day?

There are lots of ways to observe this significant date in American history and remember the events that occurred.

1. Ceremonies

In the U.S., observances of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day are held in Hawaii at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which is the site of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Honolulu County, Hawaii. (The Arizona was one of the battleships that sunk during the attack.)

Commemorative ceremonies honor the lives lost as well as those who were injured. Many veterans who were present on that fateful day and survived the attack return to Hawaii to attend these events.

2. Remembrance in Schools

Remembrance Day also extends to schools of all levels. The national observance gives educators a perfect opportunity to teach students about Pearl Harbor history and significance.

For example, students may engage in Remembrance Day activities, watch videos, or attend presentations to learn about what happened.

3. Remembrance in the Media

The media usually covers Remembrance Day observances and activities, both nationally and in local communities. News outlets may feature stories from veterans, and special interviews with survivors may air.

Pearl Harbor is an Integral Piece of American History

Pearl Harbor represents a significant part of America’s involvement in World War II. It was the attack that spurred the U.S. government to act, which led to joining the Allies and, eventually, winning the war.

Observing this date is about American pride as much as keeping history alive. It is also about honoring the sacrifices service men and women make when they pledge to defend their country.