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US Remembers Pearl Harbor, 70 Years Later

Pearl Harbor survivors George Richard (L) and Charlie Boswell talk about where they were on December 7, 1941 as they tour the Arizona Memorial at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii December 5, 2011.

The United States on Wednesday marked the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the U.S. into World War Two.

About 120 survivors of the attack attended a ceremony at Pearl Harbor itself, in the Pacific island state of Hawaii. Some 3,000 people observed the event at a memorial structure straddling the sunken remains of the USS Arizona battleship.

They held a moment of silence at 7:55 in the morning (UTC 17:55), the exact moment Japan's Imperial Navy began the surprise attack.

Memorial events marking the December 7,1941 attack are being held throughout the U.S., with flags flying at half-staff to memorialize the dead.

Pearl Harbor Facts

Dec. 7, 1941 130 vessels of the U.S. Pacific fleet are anchored at Pearl Harbor.

7:55 a.m. First wave of Japanese aircraft arrives.

8:10 a.m. USS Arizona explodes after armor-piercing shell strikes forward ammunition magazine.

Casualties 1,177 U.S. sailors and marines on USS Arizona are killed, about 333 survive.

Aftermath The USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah are lost in the attack. Remainder of the fleet is salvaged and returns to action later in the war.

Today Each year more than one million people visit the USS Arizona Memorial, constructed over the remains of the battleship.

In a statement marking the day, U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to those whose died, saying that "their tenacity helped define the greatest generation."

The attack by the Japanese on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was unprovoked. Four U.S. battleships sank or capsized, several hundred warplanes were destroyed and more than 2,400 servicemen, women and civilians died. It was the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil until September 11, 2001.

Many Americans draw a comparison between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attacks in 2001. A spokesman for the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard says the comparison keeps the memory of Pearl Harbor alive for a new generation.

"And always in the context of 9/11 you'll almost always hear a reference to - this was our generation's, this generation's Pearl Harbor," said Public affairs officer Kerry Gershaneck. "So, I think the memory of Pearl Harbor is eternal as long as this nation endures."

The U.S. declared war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. On December 11, 1941, Japan's Axis partners Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S., marking the nation's entry into the global conflict.

VOA's Victor Beattie interviews Kerry Gershaneck, public affairs officer for the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, on the lessons of Pearl Harbor.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.