Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

On a Sunday morning 75 years ago today, Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The attack was at 7:55 AM in Pearl Harbor (11:55 AM Central Time).  News of the attack didn’t make it to the public on the mainland until the afternoon (around 1:30 PM Central Time), as radio programs began to be interrupted with the news and scattered information (even as the attack was continuing). The first news of Pearl Harbor came as people had left church, were enjoying a Sunday afternoon dinner, or were listening to baseball or other programs on the radio. The reports continued throughout the afternoon, and a live report came via phone from a reporter on a rooftop in Honolulu on some NBC radio stations 3 hours after the attack began, saying: “This battle has been going on for nearly three hours… It’s no joke, it’s a real war.” After he reported for about 2 1/2 minutes, his report was interrupted by the operator saying the line was needed for an emergency call.

NBC Live Report from Honolulu, Hawaii 3 hours after attack:

American Losses

Two thousand four hundred and two U.S. lives were lost. One thousand two hundred and eighty two were injured. Many were trapped alive in the wreckage of ships. American families had to wait for weeks or months for final notice of those lost. Four battleships were sunk and four were damaged. The attack sank or damaged 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, and a minelayer. One hundred and eighty-eight aircraft were destroyed. Two of the sunken battleships were later raised and returned to service.

A Date That Will Live In Infamy

The next day President Roosevelt made the following address to Congress and the nation.  This speech, delivered to Congress and the nation, will forever memorialize in words this tragic event and period in U.S. and world history:


Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

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.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbending determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Photo Essay

December 7 1941

The above image is of servicemen at Ford Island Naval Air Station watching the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background. The photo is from a a very well done photo essay on Pearl Harbor by the The Atlantic.

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About the author

I’m a husband, father, and one of those friends who has a terrible habit of not returning phone calls.  I’m really just trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, and I enjoy meeting great people along the way and maybe having a chance to spend time talking about things deep and trivial.

View all articles by Jimmy Doyle

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