Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2019: What happened during fateful attack 78 years ago?

Matthew Diebel, USA TODAY
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2019: What happened during fateful attack 78 years ago?
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2019: What happened during fateful attack 78 years ago?

"December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy," President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously proclaimed.

On Saturday, Americans will mark the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The surprise raid on the major U.S. Navy base near Honolulu killed more than 2,400 Americans and, in short, brought the United States into World War II.

According to the National Park Service, Congress designated Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in August 1994. Remembrance events are held every year at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

Here are some facts surrounding that fateful day in U.S. history:

What happened during the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Just before 8 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes made the surprise raid on Pearl Harbor. During the attack, which was launched from aircraft carriers, nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, were damaged or destroyed, as well as more than 300 aircraft, according to the History Channel.

How many people were killed at Pearl Harbor?

The official death toll was 2,403, according to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, including 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 218 Army service members and 68 civilians. Of the dead, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona, the wreckage of which now serves as the main memorial to the incident. Fifty-five Japanese also were killed.

The total number of wounded was 1,143, including 710 Navy, 69 Marines, 364 Army and 103 civilians, the Visitors Bureau says.

More on Pearl Harbor: Pearl Harbor veteran's interment to be the last on the sunken USS Arizona

Why was Pearl Harbor a pivotal moment in WWII and U.S. history?

Until the raid, the U.S. had hesitated to join World War II, which had started on Sept. 1, 1939, after Germany invaded Poland.

In those nearly 2 1/2 years, the U.S. had extensively aided the United Kingdom, virtually the sole source of resistance to the Nazis in Europe, but a general mood of isolationism – brought on, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian, by the Great Depression and the memory of huge losses during World War I – led Roosevelt and Congress to be wary of intervention.

Pearl Harbor reversed that in a day, with Congress issuing a declaration of war after Roosevelt’s speech on Dec. 8, 1941.

How does the Pearl Harbor attack compare with 9/11?

In comparison to the 2,403 dead at Pearl harbor, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to 2,977 deaths, according to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Of those, 2,753 died in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 people were killed on Flight 93. Many first responders have since died of illnesses caused by the dust at the World Trade Center site, meaning the official total could rise further.

Where are remembrance ceremonies taking place at Pearl Harbor?

The main ceremony will take place at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, hosted by the National Park Service and the United States Navy.

According to a press release, the observance will begin at 7:50 a.m. local time and a moment of silence will occur at 7:55 a.m., the time the attack began.

"A ship will render pass-in-review honors to the USS Arizona and all Pearl Harbor Survivors. A missing man flyover conducted by the 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawai’i Air National Guard and the 19th Fighter Squadron, U.S. Air Force will follow," the release says.

How many survivors remain?

The exact number of survivors is unclear. Only three survivors of the USS Arizona, the ship most heavily hit in the raid, are still alive. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded years ago as numbers dwindled.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story published in 2017. Contributing: Ryan Miller.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pearl Harbor: What happened during December 7, 1941, attack in Hawaii