Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Celebrated annually on December 7th, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during World War II. During this attack, 2,403 American servicemen were killed, and more than 1,200 servicemen were injured.

This attack also resulted in severely damaging or sinking five battleships, three cruisers, and one mine-layer. It also resulted in the destruction of more than 200 aircraft and the damaging of 159 other planes. While this day is a special observance for most people, it isn’t a federal holiday – which means that government buildings, postal service, and most businesses remain open on this day.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

At 7:55 am Hawaii time on December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese warplanes descended on the naval base located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack was initially detected 53 minutes earlier, at 7:02 am, when two radar operators saw a large mass of aircraft heading towards Hawaii from the north.

However, no alarm was sounded because the naval base was expecting B-17 bombers from the mainland United States, so they assumed this mass of planes was those bombers. This resulted in the air attack being one of the most devastating attacks on U.S. soil.

The attack killed over 2,400 servicemen and wounded 1,200 others. It also rendered most of the Pacific Fleet completely useless. Japan’s losses due to the attack on Pearl Harbor were proportionately smaller: with only thirty planes and five midget submarines destroyed and fewer than 100 men killed.

Fortunately, all three of the Pacific Fleet’s carriers were out at sea conducting training maneuvers and were thereby saved. Six months into the war, these aircraft carriers would exact their revenge against Japan at the Battle of Midway.

On December 8th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued his “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” speech to a joint session of Congress. Within an hour of the speech, the U.S. Congress voted to go to war against Japan, with the U.S. Senate voting for war 82 to 0 and the House of Representatives voting 388 to 1.

Three days later, Germany and Italy both declared war against the United States. World War II would result in the loss of over 400,000 American servicemen and over a million American servicemen wounded.

The History of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

The United States Congress designated December 7th to be a holiday known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. This designation was created when they published Public Law 103-308 on August 23, 1994.

On this day, which is also known simply as Pearl Harbor Day, the American flag should be flown at half-staff until sunset to honor those Americans who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Facts About Pearl Harbor

  • The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted from 7:55 am to 9:45 am, or about 110 minutes.
  • The attack was launched by the Japanese in two waves, set about 45 minutes apart from each other.
  • The Japanese traveled over 3,400 miles to execute their attack.
  • Japanese forces were led by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo.
  • The Japanese fleet consisted of over 350 planes.
  • “Operation Hawaii” and “Operation Z” were the Japanese codenames for the attack.
  • The attack struck airfields at Wheeler Field, Hickam Field, Schofield Barracks, Ewa Field, and Bellows Field.

Pearl Harbor Memorials & Honors

Several memorials have been erected to honor the servicemen who died during the Pearl Harbor attack. This includes the USS Arizona Memorial, which is a marble memorial built over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona, dedicated in 1962.

Another memorial is the USS Utah, dedicated on the northwest shore of Ford Island in 1972 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989. Fifty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Congress established the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal.

This medal can be awarded to any veteran of the U.S. military who was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor. This medal can also be awarded to civilians who were injured or killed during the attack on the naval base.

Commemorating National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

As prescribed by a declaration from the current President of the United States, the U.S. Flag should be displayed on all government buildings and American homes on this day. This flag should be flown at half-mast until sunset to honor those who lost their lives during the attack.

It is also customary for many different associations to hold special events commemorating the attack. Other activities that may occur on this day include luncheons, parades, and special television programming on the Pearl Harbor attack. There are usually many different wreath-laying ceremonies on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (Observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
December 7 Saturday
Next year (2025)
December 7 Sunday
Last year (2023)
December 7 Thursday