Officially, 2,403 U.S. personnel were killed on December 7th, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. You can learn more about the tragedy of Pearl Harbor below.
On top of that, 1,178 were wounded at pearl harbor. Those numbers break down into:
The recovery and interment of the bodies of the casualties from the Pearl Harbor attack was a long and difficult process. Many of the dead were entombed within the sunken ships, specifically the USS Arizona, the USS Utah, and the USS Oklahoma.
The USS Arizona still rests at the bottom of the harbor with more than 1,000 sailors and Marines entombed within it. The decision was made to leave them there as it was deemed a more fitting final resting place. Their names are inscribed on the USS Arizona Memorial.
As for the USS Oklahoma, after the attack, it took until 1943 to right the ship and recover remains. Those who could not be identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. Many years later, in 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency started a project to exhume and identify these remains using modern DNA technology, resulting in the positive identification of several dozen servicemen who were then given individual burials.
For the casualties not entombed in the ships, recovery and identification efforts took place immediately following the attack, and those identified were buried with full military honors.
Due to the nature of the attack and the subsequent sinking of several battleships, not all bodies were recovered from Pearl Harbor. In the chaos that ensued, identification was a formidable challenge. Initially, identification relied on physical recognition, personal belongings, and distinguishing marks or tattoos.
Later, dog tags were used to help in identification, but these methods were not foolproof. In more recent years, the advancement of DNA testing has allowed for the identification of some remains that were previously unidentified, and this work continues as part of ongoing efforts to provide closure to the families of those lost.
In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. government provided financial compensation to the families of those killed or wounded. This was in the form of servicemen’s group life insurance, as well as death gratuity, a lump sum payment made to eligible survivors.
Moreover, the government offered education benefits and vocational rehabilitation to veterans and their dependents. Over time, the government has also made efforts to recognize the sacrifices made through commemoration events and memorials.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the deadliest attacks on American soil during World War II, but when compared globally and throughout the duration of the war, the casualties were less than some of the deadliest battles.
For example, the Battle of Stalingrad had estimated casualties upwards of 1 million, and the Battle of the Bulge resulted in approximately 90,000 American casualties. The Pearl Harbor attack was particularly shocking because it was unexpected and it precipitated the United States’ entry into the war.
Among the casualties of the Pearl Harbor attack were several high-ranking officers. One of the most notable was Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who was the highest-ranking officer killed at Pearl Harbor. He was aboard the USS Arizona when it exploded and sunk. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, the commanding officer of the USS Arizona, was also killed in action and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Yes, there are numerous firsthand accounts and diaries from survivors of the attack. These personal narratives provide invaluable insights into the experience of that fateful day.
For instance, Lieutenant Commander Samuel Fuqua, who survived the attack on the USS Arizona, kept a diary and provided a vivid account of the attack and the chaotic aftermath.
Other survivors have shared their stories through interviews, books, and at memorial events, contributing to the historical record of that pivotal day.
Visitors can indeed pay their respects at Pearl Harbor today. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii, includes several sites where visitors can learn about the attack and remember those who lost their lives.
The USS Arizona Memorial, accessible by boat, stands above the sunken battleship and serves as a poignant reminder of the lives lost. The memorial includes a shrine room with the names of the Arizona’s killed crew members inscribed on the marble wall.
There’s also the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, which contribute to understanding the historical context and personal sacrifices of the day.
Lastly, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center offers exhibitions and a chance to hear firsthand accounts from survivors. If you want to learn more about visiting Pearl Harbor, please read our things to know before visiting pearl harbor.
To learn more about Pearl Harbor, visit our resource section on visiting Pearl Harbor.