Wars have shaped our lives since the beginning of time, but some moments truly change the course of history. The 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor is a tragic example. It isn’t easy to discuss these topics with students, but we shouldn’t avoid them. Instead, use it as an opportunity to create a dialogue that fosters greater understanding. Pearl Harbor Day falls on December 7, and here are some important facts to share in your classroom in remembrance of how it changed our world.
Pearl Harbor Facts for Kids
1. Pearl Harbor is located in Hawaii.
The bay is located along the southern coast of Hawaii’s Oahu Island and is just west of the state capital, Honolulu.
2. Wai Momi was Pearl Harbor’s original name.
Hawaiians used to call the inlet Wai Momi, which means “Pearl Waters,” because the area was once filled with the type of oysters that produce pearls.
3. Pearl Harbor is a military base.
Before it became a state, Hawaii’s King Kalakaua gave the United States permission to use the harbor in 1887. The United States claimed the Hawaiian Islands in 1900. The naval base was built and used during military operations and major wars in the 1990s and early 2000s. Many of today’s naval submarines and ships are maintained at Pearl Harbor.
4. World War II began on September 1, 1939.
Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, prompting Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany. This marked the beginning of World War II.
5. Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.
It was 7:55 a.m. on a Sunday morning when 7,350 Japanese fighter planes sailed undetected nearly 500 miles north of Oahu. The attack lasted just under two hours.
6. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise.
On what was planned to be a day of rest for the soldiers, the U.S. Pacific fleet was attacked without warning. At that time, the United States had not yet entered the war, despite its support for Great Britain and the Allies.
7. The attack on Pearl Harbor had been planned for months.
Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned to take over certain Southeast Asia countries to use their oil to help fuel Japan’s military vehicles and naval fleet. He didn’t want to fight with the United States, but Pearl Harbor was close to these countries, and Yamamoto worried they’d defend the Asian nations if they were attacked. So, he moved forward with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
8. Thousands of lives were lost the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
A devastating 19 U.S. naval vessels were sunk or damaged during the attack and 188 aircraft were destroyed. In all, 2,280 servicemen and women were killed, and an additional 1,109 were wounded. Sadly, 68 civilians also lost their lives that day.
9. Most ships in Pearl Harbor were salvaged.
Incredibly, crews were able to repair the damaged ships. With the exception of the U.S.S. Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma, the damaged ships were able to return to sea.
10. Relations between the United States and Japan were poor prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the relationship between Japan and the United States wasn’t great. Things worsened when Japan joined the Axis powers, which included Germany and Italy. The U.S. stopped business relations with Japan, which contributed to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
11. The U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Japan one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Just one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States officially entered the conflict when Congress voted to declare war on Japan. In response, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States three days later.
12. U.S. citizens lined up to serve in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the wake of the attack, young men lined up for days to serve in the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard because they wanted to serve.
13. The Allies of World War II won the war.
In the end, the Allies, which included the United States, Britain, France, and Russia, eventually defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan and won the war.
14. Pearl Harbor is a National Historic Landmark.
It was given this designation in 1964 for “its strategic importance related to the United States’ annexation of Hawai’i, and for the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack during World War II.”
15. Visitors can pay respects at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial includes the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah memorials, as well as six officer bungalows, three mooring quays, and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The USS Arizona Memorial is built on the water above the wreckage. Visitors can take a boat out to the site to get a glimpse of the remains of the sunken ship 40 feet below.
16. The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is beneficial to sea life.
While it honors and serves as a tomb for the 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives in the attack, the hull also “acts as an artificial reef providing habitat for marine life.”
17. Pearl Harbor is the most visited destination on the island of Oahu.
Close to downtown Honolulu and the popular resort area of Waikiki, Pearl Harbor has become one of Oahu’s major tourist destinations.