America remembers Pearl Harbor on 80th anniversary of surprise attack

“December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy,” is how then-President Franklin Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the surprise strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet that killed more than 2,400 service members and civilians, wounded about 1,000 people, and damaged or destroyed almost 20 ships and more than 300 aircraft in less than two hours.

The following day, Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and the lawmakers approved the move.

Just three days later, Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies, declared war on the U.S., which reciprocated, entering a second World War that had been raging in Europe for more than two years.

Approximately 150 World War II veterans, including about 40 survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, are attending a ceremony of remembrance at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawaii.

Among them will be Pearl Harbor survivor Ira ‘Ike’ Schab, Jr., whose daughter, Kimberlee Heinrichs, raised more than $16,000 from strangers using GoFundMe to make sure he could be there.

Pearl Harbor survivor Ira ‘Ike’ Schab, Jr. is a 101-year-old Navy veteran who is in Hawaii for the 80th anniversary of the surprise strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet due to the generosity of 286 donors who contributed to a crowdfunding campaign.

“I don’t remember seeing the Arizona get hit, but I remember being at the bow of our ship and a big high tower of flame and debris came off of her,” Schab said. “It’s getting harder to remember these things, but I remember trying not to get killed during the war. Like most people.”

David Russell, another 101-year-old Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, is traveling to Hawaii with the Best Defense Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former NFL Linebacker Donnie Edwards that helps World War II veterans revisit their old battlefields.

Russell said a split-second decision on that December morning saved his life.

“They started closing that hatch. And I decided to get out of there,” Russell said in a recent interview.

“Those darn torpedoes, they just kept hitting us and kept hitting us. I thought they’d never stop,” Russell said. “That ship was dancing around.”

The 80th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration will include a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact time the attack began.

It will be held in person for the first time since 2019. Last year’s event was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event will also be live-streamed.

Survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are now in their late 90s or older.

Many of the veterans arrived in Hawaii on Friday from Dallas, Texas, on a plane chartered for the occasion. The ABC News affiliate in Dallas, WFAA, spoke to the veterans at the airport in the city.

Navy veteran Lieutenant Commander Cass Phillips, a 101-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, told the outlet, “I was 21 at that time.”

John Pildner said that he was in the Army before he could even vote, from 1944 to 1946. “If I could do it again, I would,” he added.

The capsized battleship USS Oklahoma is lifted out of the water at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, May 24, 1943

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. military is reburying the remains of service personnel killed when the USS Oklahoma was attacked in Pearl Harbor, following a yearslong project to identify their remains. The burials will be in Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The Pentagon project identified nearly 400 service members from the ship with the help of DNA technology and dental records, leaving the remains of only 33 people from the ship not individually identified.

The Oklahoma was sunk during the attack, which was carried out by a Japanese force that included 353 aircraft, 35 submarines, two battleships and 11 destroyers, according to a U.S. census report.

“I encourage all Americans to reflect on the courage shown by our brave warriors that day and remember their sacrifices,” U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier this month in a National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation. “I ask us all to give sincere thanks and appreciation to the survivors of that unthinkable day.”

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