2021 Marks the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 


Remains of the USS Arizona can be seen underneath the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

On December 7, the US Navy will have an in-person remembrance ceremony to honor the 2,400 Americans who lost their lives in the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor 80 years ago.

In 1941, Japan was a rapidly developing island nation. But being an island nation, they were running out of oil and other natural resources to power their development, so they invaded mainland Asia to get some.

Eventually, Japan conquered so much that they had to look towards US-owned islands. Those islands had more resources, but they feared that the US would retaliate and destroy Japanese forces. 

So on the morning of December 7, 1941, 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft took off in waves from four aircraft carriers, headed for the US Pacific Fleet’s base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. According to History.com, Japanese military command gave themselves the go-ahead to destroy the US Pacific Fleet before it could destroy them.

The Americans at Pearl Harbor spotted the Japanese planes on radar, but the commander insisted it was nothing out of the ordinary, just some bombers returning from California. This would prove to be a grave mistake.

When the Japanese arrived, they wreaked havoc. According to NPR, 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships and over 300 airplanes, were destroyed. An additional 2,400 Americans were killed, and another 1,000+ were wounded. Nearby air stations were also attacked.

The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced December 7, 1941, was “a day which will live in infamy.” He also asked Congress to declare war on Japan. He got his wish and plunged America into the depths of World War II.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), “On August 23, 1994, the United States Congress designated December 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Every year, remembrance events are held at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, culminating in a commemoration ceremony on December 7.”

Last year during the COVID Pandemic, the Pearl Harbor commemoration was held virtually; but this year, the commemoration will be held in person. 

Pacific Historic Parks has announced the theme of the 2021 Pearl Harbor Memorial Commemoration: Sacrifice, Valor, and Peace.

The Park Service also states that “the goal of the commemoration and supplemental events is to ensure that future generations will understand the valor and legacy of those who perished and those who fought throughout the war.”

The actual event will take place on December 7, a Tuesday, and will begin at 7:45 am, according to the National Park Service. The Memorial Commemoration will take place at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Kilo Pier.

Here at Longfellow Middle School, our 7th grade history teachers tend to cover Pearl Harbor towards the end of the year. “We cover the attack on Pearl Harbor during our study of World War II that usually begins at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter,” said history teacher Jane Layton.

Though it isn’t covered until later in the year, Ms. Layton says it’s still important to commemorate.

“I would always want students to honor the bravery and courage of those who were there and those who died on December 7, 1941. However, I feel it is equally important to understand how America’s response to Pearl Harbor was a pivotal moment in history.”

Although Pearl Harbor happened 80 years ago, it is still a good lesson for us to think about today.

“I think remembering Pearl Harbor can help us realize how much we accomplish when we work together,” said Layton. “Americans had been divided over whether we should enter WWII before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese expected Pearl Harbor to be a demoralizing loss for our country, but we proved otherwise when we stood together against enemies seeking to attack us,” Layton said.

“In the days that followed December 7, the government mobilized quickly because Americans united,” she added. “The war effort on the Home Front and abroad required sacrifices and cooperation, and we answered the call. Therefore, I hope remembering Pearl Harbor will also serve to illustrate the significance of teamwork and why it is so important that we commit to working together.”