The legacy of Pearl Harbor: 75 years later

World Today

USS Arizona MemorialA Navy sailor is seen as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Halsey, passes the USS Arizona Memorial, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Both U.S. and Japanese survivors returned to Pearl Harbor on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack that drew the U.S. into World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed that day in an attack that hastened America’s entry into the Second World War.

CCTV America’s Daniel Ryntjes reports.

The legacy of Pearl Harbor: 75 years later

Both U.S. and Japanese survivors returned to Pearl Harbor on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack that drew the U.S. into World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed that day in an attack that hastened America's entry into the Second World War. CCTV America's Daniel Ryntjes reports

Seventy-five years ago, a bulletin from The Associated Press read as follows:

FLASH:
President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air. The attack of the Japanese also was made on all naval and military “activities” on the island of Oahu.

USS Detroit - Pearl Harbor

This US Navy file image shows the USS Detroit burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (AFP PHOTO / US NAVY)

U.S. president Roosevelt addressed the American people the day after Pearl Harbor:

Japan had attacked to prevent the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions against colonies of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States in Southeast Asia.

The surprise attack shocked the American people. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan, prompting the U.S. entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. Because the Japanese had aligned with the Axis powers of Germany and Italy, U.S. president Roosevelt had all the justification he needed to employ his country’s military in joining the Allies in Europe to defeat Hitler’s conquest of the continent.

By the end of the war, approximately 3 million Japanese and 420,000 Americans had died.

On August 15, 1945, World War II came to a close as Imperial Japan gave its surrender, which was formally signed on September 2. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan have become firm allies – though some questions of reconciliation have not been answered. In some cases, the U.S. and Japan have simply agreed to not push the issue.

On May 27, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in Hiroshima, Japan. Though he did not make apologies for his country’s dropping of the bomb, during a ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, he risked criticism at home when he decided to visit a memorial to the 140,000 killed by the atomic blast. Japanese generally welcomed his visit and praised his speech which called on humankind to prevent war and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama visits the Hiroshima memorial

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, as Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

On December 5, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he will visit Pearl Harbor with Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941.

At the ceremony in Oahu commemorating the attack, 95-year-old veteran from Columbus, Ohio, visited Pearl Harbor for the first time since 1945. Veterans advocates raised money to pay for his trip to the memorial.

U.S. survivors of Pearl Harbor

Milton Mapou, left, of the USS Detroit, Donald Stratton, center, of the USS Arizona, and Thomas Berg, right, of the USS Tennessee wait for the start of the opening ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Kilo Pier at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

On Dec. 7, 1941, Mapou was getting ready to sit down for breakfast on board the USS Detroit when he heard an explosion. He went topside to see a plane coming in low. It dropped a torpedo but missed the Detroit.

Later, Mapou shattered a leg during the war when a kamikaze plane sunk his ship and cut it in half between Okinawa and Japan.

On both sides of the Pacific, a different kind of commemoration also takes place: The Blackened Canteen Ceremony.

The ceremony focuses on one item – a single canteen that was recovered after two U.S. B29 bombers collided over the Japanese city of Shizuoka in 1945. The incident caused the deaths of 23 American airmen, as well as about 2,000 Japanese civilians.

Blackened Canteen

The Blackened Canteen remained after U.S. bombers collided in Shizuoka, Japan. Par tradition, whiskey from the canteen is poured onto memorials in Shizuoka and Pearl Harbor. (DoD photo by Katie Lange)

According to local legend, a Japanese farmer named Fukumatsu Ito saw the collision and rushed to help wounded American soldiers. Though he was able to pull a few from the wreckage, they all died. Out of respect, they were interred with Japanese citizens of Shizuoka who had also been killed that day.

Since 1972, a ceremony inspired by Ito begins in June, taking place in both locations – Shizuoka and Pearl Harbor. At Shizuoka, service members from Japan and the U.S. pour bourbon whiskey from the Blackened Canteen onto a war monument, symbolizing a final drink shared with their departed comrades.

At Pearl Harbor in December, the same ritual is performed over the bow of the USS Arizona Memorial to remember all of those who died on U.S. soil.

Story compiled with information from The Associated Press and U.S. Department of Defense.