At 7:48 in the morning on December 7th, 1941, The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor was surprise attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. This attack was what ultimately led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Imagine the chaos that occurred during that early morning attack seventy-six years ago. 353 Imperial Japanese aircrafts attacked our naval base. Those aircrafts ranged from fighters, level, and dive bombers as well as torpedo bombers. These attacks were intended to act as a preventive action. Japan hoped to keep the United States’ Pacific Fleet from interfering with the military actions they had planned in Southeast Asia against various overseas territories of the United Kingdom, United States, and the Netherlands.

Through the two waves of attacks, the destruction of the United States Navy was significant. All eight of the U.S. Navy battleships were damaged and four were sunk. Three cruisers, three destroyers, a minelayer, and an anti-aircraft training ship were either damaged or sunk. There were 188 U.S. aircrafts destroyed and over three hundred damaged. Dry docks and airfields were also destroyed. But, the more terrible losses of all were the 1,178 Americans left injured and the 2,403 that were killed. Thankfully our Navy was able to rebound quicker than expected, as the attack has left the base’s more significant and important onshore facilities unscathed.

This devastating attack was a complete and utter shock to our country and our people, as it came without any explicit warning and without a declaration of war from Japan, and Franklin D. Roosevelt did not hesitate to respond to what he called “a date which will live in infamy”. The next day FDR led the United States in declaring war on Japan and proceeded to declare war on both Germany and Italy within a few days.

FDR declared “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.”

In the aftermath of the attack, the heroic servicemen who had distinguished themselves during the combat that took place at Pearl Harbor were awarded the following:

  • 15 Medals of Honor,
  • 51 Navy Crosses,
  • 53 Silver Stars,
  • 4 Navy and Marine Corps Medal,
  • 1 Distinguished Flying Cross,
  • 4 Distinguished Service Crosses,
  • 1 Distinguished Service Medal
  • 3 Bronze Star Medals

Much later, the United States Congress actually authorized a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, for all of our military veterans of the attack.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating day in our country’s history. It led us to enter into another World War, resulting in the loss of thousands of brave servicemembers. On this melancholy 76th anniversary, and every day we remember the extreme sacrifices that the courageous men and women who fight for our country make. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.