Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, is not a federal holiday.
Flags are flown at half-staff at federal facilities, and Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered flags to be lowered at state facilities as well. (See the governor's statement, below.).
Seventy years on, we can all actively commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor, truly one of the most critical dates in American and world history.
Traditionally, flags should be displayed in homes in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. Without the holiday status of Labor Day or July 4, this might not be something everyone thinks to do. The 70th anniversary would be the prime opportunity to begin, or continue, such a tradition.
On Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the American Army and Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The attack came as a surprise to the American Army and Navy and led to great losses of life and equipment. More than 2,000 American citizens were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.
The Americans also lost a large portion of their battle ships and nearly 200 aircraft that were stationed in the Pacific region. More than 60 Japanese servicemen were killed, injured or captured. The Japanese Navy also lost five midget submarines and 29 aircraft.
The Japanese military had hoped that the attack on Pearl Harbor would prevent the United States of America from increasing her influence in the Pacific. However, the events in Pearl Harbor actually led to the escalation of World War II.
The day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan and so entered World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt in a speech to Congress stated that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was "a date which will live in infamy." Shortly afterward, Germany also declared war on the United States.
In the months that followed the attack, the slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor" swept the United States and radio stations repeatedly played a song of the same name. Here is its refrain:
"History in every century,
records an act that lives forevermore.
"We'll recall as in to line we fall, the thing that
happened on Hawaii's shore."
Pearl Harbor's memory is forever preserved in the USS Arizona Memorial, a marble memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona, which was dedicated in 1962. The memorial remembers all military personnel who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. The memorial was designed by architect Alfred Preis, an Austrian-born resident who lived in Honolulu and was placed at a detainment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack as part of the internment policy applied to Japanese and German Americans at the time.
Another memorial that commemorates Pearl Harbor Day is the USS Utah, a battleship that was attacked and sunk in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. A memorial to honor the crew of the USS Utah was dedicated on the northwest shore of Ford Island, near the ship's wreck, in 1972. The ship was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Not everyone has been to the Arizona and Utah memorials. Pearl Harbor seems far away and long ago. But just as the bunker oil from the USS Arizona continues to trickle to the surface for decades after its sinking, what happened "on Hawaii's shore" that day should remain an indelible element of the American conscience.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Dec. 7, 2011, in remembrance of Pearl Harbor.
"I encourage all Oregonians to pause and pay tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor," said Kitzhaber. "Seventy years have passed since that day of infamy, but the legacy of these brave men and women continues to inspire. Today, we honor the greatest generation for their selfless service, both here at home and overseas during World War II."