PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — More than 2,000 people at Pearl Harbor and many more around the country are marking the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack that killed thousands of people and launched the United States into World War II.
The USS Michael Murphy, a recently christened ship named after a Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, sounded its ship’s whistle Friday to start a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., marking the exact time the bombing began in 1941.
Crew members lined the edge of the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it passed the USS Arizona, a battleship that still lies in the harbor where it sank. Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighter jets flew overhead in a special “missing man” formation to break the silence.
Among those gathered for the ceremony were about 50 survivors of the attack.
Edwin Schuler, of San Jose, Calif., said he remembered going up to the bridge of his ship, the USS Phoenix, to read a book on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in 1941 when he saw planes dropping bombs.
“I thought: ‘Whoa, they’re using big practice bombs,’ I didn’t know,” said Schuler, 91.
Schuler said he’s returned for the annual ceremony about 30 times because it’s important to spread the message of remembering Pearl Harbor.
Online, Pearl Harbor became a popular topic on Facebook and other social networks, trending worldwide on Twitter and Google Plus as people marked the anniversary with status updates, personal stories of family and photos.
The Navy and National Park Service hosted the ceremonies held in remembrance of the 2,390 service members and 49 civilians killed in the attack.
Friday events also will give special recognition to members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who flew noncombat missions during World War II, and to Ray Emory, a 91-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who has pushed to identify the remains of unknown servicemen.
Admiral Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, gave the keynote address, giving examples of courage and heroism of military service members that day. The ceremony also includes a Hawaiian blessing, songs played by the U.S. Pacific Fleet band and a rifle salute from the U.S. Marine Corps.
President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans.
“Today, we pay solemn tribute to America’s sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu,” Obama said in a statement. “As we do, let us also reaffirm that their legacy will always burn bright — whether in the memory of those who knew them, the spirit of service that guides our men and women in uniform today, or the heart of the country they kept strong and free.”
Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s senior U.S. senator and a member of an Army unit of Japanese-Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II, said the Pearl Harbor attack evoked anger, fierce patriotism and racism.
“Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in,” the Democrat said.
The Navy and park service will resume taking visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits atop the sunken battleship, after the ceremony.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.