Before Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, many Americans had never heard of Pearl Harbor. By the end of the day, most Americans knew Pearl Harbor was in the Hawaiian Islands, a territory of the United States. They were shocked by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, where a large number of our Pacific fleet’s ships were anchored.

The U.S. also had Army Air Force airplanes in the Hawaiian Islands, plus Navy personnel, Marines and Army ground troops at bases there.

Total killed in the attack was 2,403 Americans, and many more were wounded. Relations between the U.S. and Japan had been strained for a decade prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Our military intelligence agencies knew the Japanese may stage an attack, but they didn’t know where. Our military in 1941 was poorly prepared for a war although drafting of men had already begun.

The day after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress declared war on Japan. A few days later, the U.S. declared war on the Axis Forces led by Germany.

As older Americans pass on, memories go with them. We wonder in 50 years how many Americans will remember Pearl Harbor? National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is Dec. 7, and if it prevails, many people will remember the attack.

Japan is an ally of the U.S. today, and it has become “westernized.” The larger Japanese cities are much like American cities today, and other western urban areas. After the war, we had occupation troops, including two divisions, in Japan until 1953. We still have air and naval bases there and a rather small military presence.

Any American who was alive on Dec. 7, 1941, remembers the Pearl Harbor attack, which plunged us into World War II. We fought the Japanese until that country surrendered in August 1945. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was the battle cry that played a big part in unifying the U.S. against the Axis Forces.

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