© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The USS Arizona memorial can be seen from a shuttle during the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry/File Photo
By Kia Johnson and Andrea Shalal
(Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as the number of Americans in the “greatest generation” who lived through the World War II declines.
The December 7, 1941 attack rocked a country so focused on the war in Europe that it lost sight of the threat posed by Japan, historians say. It killed 2,390 Americans, and the United States declared war on Japan the next day.
“The ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors dwindle with each passing year. But the memory of their heroism – and our gratitude – still shines bright,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “They were among the first of the greatest generation to taste combat, to know war. And they answered that call to duty with exceptional skill and courage.”
President Joe Biden visited the World War II memorial in Washington early Tuesday morning to celebrate the anniversary, saluting a wreath among the columns. First lady Jill Biden laid a bouquet on the pillar of the New Jersey memorial to honor her father, Donald Jacobs, who served as a US Navy signaller during the war.
“We honor the patriots who perished, commemorate the bravery of all who have defended our nation, and recommit ourselves to pursuing the peace and reconciliation that have brought a brighter future to our world,” Biden said later on Twitter (NYSE:).
In Hawaii, a memorial ceremony at Pearl Harbor on Monday night honored the 58 service members who died aboard the battleship USS Utah, one of the first ships hit in the attack.
Members of the United States Navy, veterans, friends and family stood as the names of those who died were read, each accompanied by a bell. The bugle call “Taps” then sounded near the sinking site.
Several other commemorations organized by the National Park Service and the US Navy are also planned to mark the day.
The bombing was dubbed “a date that will live in infamy” by then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The United States defeated Japan in August 1945, days after the American atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Eighty years later, there remains a dwindling number of veterans.
Former Republican U.S. Senator Bob Dole, who overcame serious battle injuries in World War II, died on Sunday at the age of 98.
Former US President George HW Bush, who joined the US Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack, died in 2018 at the age of 94.
Ray Chavez, who was the oldest US veteran surviving the attack, died in 2018 at the age of 106, according to media reports.
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