Today, we observe the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, men and women of the armed forces faced one of the most lethal threats in our country’s history with astounding heroism. The sunken USS Arizona accounted for nearly half of the 2,341 fallen service members that day. The defense of Pearl Harbor and response to save those trapped aboard the USS Arizona is a testament to the resilience and bravery of our armed services. It reminds us of the sacrifice of all Veterans, no matter the war, conflict, or peacetime period you have served.

The U.S. flag that flies above the memorial site brings to mind the many deeds of bravery by those who served there that day, such as:

  • Dorie Miller, a Navy steward on the USS West Virginia who took control of an anti-aircraft machine gun and destroyed two Japanese planes and became the first African American awarded the Navy Cross.
  • Donald Stratton, who served tirelessly on the Arizona before being rescued from the sinking ship and going on to serve in the Pacific theater. He later lobbied for Joe George, the sailor who saved him, to receive a posthumous Bronze Star.
  • The many Army Air Force pilots who took to the air to defend the harbor against the attacks.
  • The 15 Navy personnel who received the Medal of Honor for bravery during the attack.

Today, we offer our sincerest thanks to those who defended our nation 80 years ago today. It’s only fitting that the theme for this year’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is valor, sacrifice and peace. These stories, and the many like them, are the ones that drive the benefits and services we deliver at VA.

More on those who served at Pearl Harbor

The Veterans History Project contains a searchable database of interviews with Veterans stationed at Pearl Harbor during WWII. Several of these Veterans’ accounts are featured in VAntage Point profiles created in 2016 and are available here.

For more information

To learn more about the benefits and services available to Veterans, service members and their families – past, present, and future – visit

By Bryan Lett is a USMC Veteran and public affairs specialist for VBA’s Office of Strategic Engagement

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Published on Dec. 7, 2021

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