Pearl Harbor Anniversary Offers Peek Into a Different World

Surprise attack anniversary evokes a different world, yet especially relevant in 2013.

Smoke billows from the USS Arizona as it topples into the sea during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
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Saturday marks the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a massive blow that would thrust a reluctant U.S. into the World War II and establish its position as one of the globe's premier military powers.

[PHOTOS: Remembering Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941]

President Barack Obama used the occasion to draw upon America's military history. It is increasingly relevant at a time when families, yet again, send their sons and daughters to faraway countries and work to find stability in a financially struggling homeland.

"In remembrance of Pearl Harbor and to defend our Nation against future attacks, scores of young Americans enlisted in the United States military. In battle after battle, our troops fought with courage and honor," he said in a proclamation on Thursday. "Because of their extraordinary valor, America emerged from this test as we always do – stronger than ever before."

Obama cited those who grew Victory Gardens, and all who "served and sacrificed on the home front."

"Together, our Greatest Generation overcame the Great Depression, and built the largest middle class and strongest economy in history," he said.

The anniversary also marks the stark changes that have taken place in fewer than two generations. Former enemy Japan struck the U.S. "without warning or provocation," Obama said. "The bombs that fell on the island of Oahu took almost 2,400 American lives, damaged our Pacific Fleet, challenged our resilience, and tested our resolve."

[PHOTOS: Pearl Harbor, 70 Years Later]

During his recent trip to Japan, Vice President Joe Biden praised the U.S. relationship with Japan while meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"We have no ally in closer collaboration with us on the many challenges facing us" in the Middle East and elsewhere, Biden said on Thursday. "It's not only our alliance, it's the friendship between our countries and our people. It's tried and it's true. It's been tested by time and tragedy, and it still grows stronger to the benefit of both our countries, the region and I would suggest to the world."

Exactly 2,403 sailors, soldiers, Marines and civilians died in the early morning attacks on a sunny and clear Sunday in 1941. Roughly 1,200 were wounded. The U.S. Pacific Fleet was essentially crippled, including the total loss of the U.S.S. Arizona which remains a monument to the attack at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

A U.S. Navy website has more information on the extent of the damage and pictures from the scene.

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