From left to right—Pearl Harbor survivors Milton Mapou of the USS Detroit, Donald Stratton of the USS Arizona, and Thomas Berg of the USS Tennessee wait for the start of the opening ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
December 7, 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the attack that caused the United States to enter World War II. Around the country, people honored survivors and remembered those who died in the attack. The largest ceremony took place at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam near Honolulu, Hawaii. The base is home to five memorial sites at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
The most visited site is the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the sunken hull of a battleship on which 1,177 sailors and marines died. About 900 of those servicemen are buried there. Another 429 sailors died on the USS Oklahoma. These sites, along with the USS Utah, Ford Island, and Battleship Row, are within a few miles of each other. Together, they make a fitting place to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor. The theme for this year’s Pearl Harbor remembrance was “Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future.” Organizers hoped the service would encourage “reflection, remembrance, and understanding.”
While the official commemoration will take place over two months, December 7 was the most anticipated day of remembrance. Visitors, veterans, and active military servicemen gathered to remember the Japanese attack on Hickam Field. Everyone observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact moment when the Japanese planes dropped the first bombs. Afterwards, four F-22 fighter jets flew overhead with one flying up and out of formation to symbolize fallen comrades. On board the USS Halsey, respects were paid to those who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor and honors were given to those who survived. In addition, service men and women from the U.S. Navy and officials from the National Park Service presented wreaths to honor survivors and the dead.
One of the most important events supporting this year’s Pearl Harbor remembrance theme will take place outside of the official ceremonies. On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese head of state to pay his respects to the victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This will come several months after President Obama became the first acting U.S. President to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to honor those who died in the American atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki near the end of World War II. Seventy-five years after the most destructive war in human history, the two nations are reflecting on the past, while continuing to work toward greater understanding and ever stronger bonds of friendship.