December 7, 1941. Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300 Americans. The U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed. A total of twelve ships sank or were beached in the attack and nine additional vessels were damaged. More than 160 aircraft were destroyed and more than 150 others damaged.
Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, sent a dispatch to all major navy commands and fleet units providing the first official word of the attack. It said simply: AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL.
The following day, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress then declared War on Japan, abandoning the nation’s isolationism policy and ushering the United States into World War II. Within days, Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States, and the country began a rapid transition to a wartime economy by building up armaments in support of military campaigns in the Pacific, North Africa, and Europe.
World War II ended 75 years ago. More than 16 million Americans served in the Allied military effort to end Axis tyranny and pave a path to a future of freedom, strength and prosperity for the United States. The American Legion’s role during the fighting – from local war bond campaigns to the GI Bill – was essential on the home front. Veterans of World War II then came home to strengthen their communities through American Legion service and membership. Future generations would be inspired for decades to come, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice continue to be honored today.