US observes 80th anniversary of attack on Pearl Harbour

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit the World War Two Memorial Site on the 80th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, at the National Mall in Washington December 7, 2021. — Reuters pic
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit the World War Two Memorial Site on the 80th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, at the National Mall in Washington December 7, 2021. — Reuters pic

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WASHINGTON, Dec 7 — The United States marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on Tuesday as the number of Americans belonging to the “greatest generation” who lived through World War Two dwindles.

The attack on December 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.

US President Joe Biden visited the World War Two memorial in Washington early this 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 honour of her father, Donald Jacobs, who served as a US Navy Signalman in WWII.

In Hawaii, a memorial ceremony was held at Pearl Harbour on a rainy Monday evening to honour 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 Harbour, Utah was hit by two torpedoes, which caused serious flooding,” US 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 capsised 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 US 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 organised by the National Park Service and the US Navy will be held to mark the day.

The bombing was famously dubbed “a date which will live in infamy” by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The United States defeated Japan in August 1945, days after US 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 US Senator Bob Dole, who overcame grievous World War Two combat wounds, died on Sunday at age 98. The memorial wreath today contained a wild sunflower, the state flower of Kansas, in honour of Dole’s home state, the White House said.

Former US President George HW Bush, who joined the US Navy after the Pearl Harbour attack, died in 2018 at age 84.

The oldest surviving US veteran of the attack, Ray Chavez, also died in 2018 at age 106, according to media reports. — Reuters

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