By Kia Johnson and Andrea Shalal
Dec 7 (Reuters) – The United States marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Tuesday as the number of Americans belonging to the “greatest generation” who lived through World War Two dwindles.
The attack on Dec. 7, 1941, shook a country that had been so focused on World War Two in Europe that it had lost sight of the threat posed by Japan, according to historians. It killed 2,390 Americans, and the United States declared war on Japan the next day.
U.S. President Joe Biden visited the World War Two memorial in Washington early Tuesday morning to observe the anniversary, saluting a wreath among the columns. First lady Jill Biden laid a bouquet at the memorial’s New Jersey pillar in honor of her father, Donald Jacobs, who served as a U.S. Navy Signalman in WWII.
In Hawaii, a memorial ceremony was held at Pearl Harbor on a rainy Monday evening to honor the 58 servicemen who died aboard the battleship USS Utah, the first ship hit in the attack.
“On the morning of December 7, 1941, in the first few minutes of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Utah was hit by two torpedoes, which caused serious flooding,” U.S. Navy Commander Jason Adams said.
“Chief Tomich stayed in the engine room, keeping the boiler as stable as possible to allow his sailors to get off the ship. Utah capsized killing 58 men in 12 minutes,” Adams said, referring to Peter Tomich, the ship’s chief watertender. Tomich died on board the ship.
Members of the U.S. Navy, veterans, friends and family members stood as the names of those who died were read out, each accompanied by a toll of a bell. The bugle call “Taps” was then played on a trumpet near the site of the sinking.
Several other remembrances organized by the National Park Service and the U.S. Navy will be held to mark the day.
The bombing was famously dubbed “a date which will live in infamy” by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The United States defeated Japan in August 1945, days after U.S. atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Eighty years later, a dwindling number of survivors and veterans remain.
Former Republican U.S. Senator Bob Dole, who overcame grievous World War Two combat wounds, died on Sunday at age 98.
The memorial wreath on Tuesday contained a wild sunflower, the state flower of Kansas, in honor of Dole’s home state, the White House said.
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who joined the U.S. Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack, died in 2018 at age 94.
The oldest surviving U.S. veteran of the attack, Ray Chavez, also died in 2018 at age 106, according to media reports.
(This story corrected age of George H.W. Bush to 94 in paragraph 13)
Reporting by Kia Johnson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Karishma Singh, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Chizu Nomiyama