15 Things You Might Not Know about Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the sun came up, the bombs came down, and the world was never the same. Shortly before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, the empire of Japan awoke a sleeping giant and tugged the United States into World War II with its attack on Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of that fateful morning, check out these 15 things you might not know about Pearl Harbor:

1. Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, briefly played football for the Honolulu Bears in 1941. He left Pearl Harbor just two days before the attacks. Robinson was aboard the Lurline ship, which painted its windows black and returned to California by irregular sea lanes to avoid detection. Robinson and all passengers were instructed to wear life jackets at all times in the event of a submarine attack.

2. Located west of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor sits 3,000 miles from the west coast of the United States and 4,000 miles from Japan.

3. Early Hawaiians referred to the lagoon harbor as Pu’uloa, meaning “long hill,” or Wai Momi, meaning “water of pearl.”

4. The attack destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft, killed over 2,400 Americans, and wounded over 1,000 Americans. Meanwhile, Japan lost just 29 aircraft and 64 men.

5. “Tora, Tora, Tora” was the Japanese code to begin the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Tora” is a Japanese word meaning “tiger,” but the full phrase is considered an abbreviation for totsugeki raigeki, which means “lightning attack.” Tora! Tora! Tora! was also the name of a 1970 blockbuster film that was more popular in Japan than the United States.

6. All eight U.S. Navy battleships at Pearl Harbor were damaged, half of which were sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six went on to fight in World War II.

7. Twenty-three sets of brothers died aboard the USS Arizona.

8. Within a few hours of Pearl Harbor, Japan also attacked the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Singapore, and Hong Kong (all territories of the United States or the United Kingdom).

9. In a joint session of Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war in a speech that famously declared December 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

10. Pearl Harbor crippled a fairly organized movement in rural Southern Oregon and Northern California to form a new state called Jefferson. After the attack, advocates of the split shifted their focus to the war effort.

11. An Elvis Presley concert raised more than 10% of the final cost to build the USS Arizona Memorial.

12. With 1.8 million visitors annually, the USS Arizona Memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii.

13. Over 1,300 free walk-up tickets are given out each day on a first come, first serve basis to the memorial.

14. Every day, two quarts of oil bubble up from the wreckage of the USS Arizona. The oil is sometimes referred to as the “tears of the Arizona.”

15. Pearl Harbor remains an active military base known today as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

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