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Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary: Commemoration History

Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary: Commemoration History

With the Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary approaching, we’ll take a look back at the major commemorations through the years. These range from the first anniversary in 1942 to the 50th and the plans set for the 75th commemoration on December 7, 2016. Solemn tributes and survivor stories abound in the devastating aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941.

1st Anniversary

With WWII still raging, the year after saw continued tensions between the American and Japanese factions. The USS Bowfin was launched precisely one year after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, and was nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger. Over the course of its nine war patrols in WWII, the USS Bowfin successfully sank 44 enemy ships. The first anniversary of Pearl Harbor also heralded the release of a short film encouraging citizens to purchase war bonds. It was a far cry from the events to be held on the Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary, as the country was still at war.

10th Anniversary

Ten years after Pearl Harbor, many were focused on communism and Americans were dying in the Korean War. At the cusp of a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, cities held drills to prepare for atomic attacks in 1951. Just 18 days before the 10th Pearl Harbor anniversary, Emperor Hirohito signed the Japanese peace treaty as well as the U.S.-Japan security pact, which ended the Allied occupation of Japan. Despite these various political distractions, the 10-year Pearl Harbor anniversary involved several ceremonies in Hawaii to remember the lives lost, much like they will for the 75th Pearl Harbor anniversary.

The ceremony held at Pearl Harbor was solely for the Navy, which had set up a small platform and flagpole at the sunken USS Arizona. Other memorials, such as a Catholic mass or a ceremony at a national cemetery located in Honolulu, remembered the Pearl Harbor casualties. On much of the mainland U.S., however, reports told a different story.

One reporter for The Springfield Union in Massachusetts found that three of 23 people interviewed on the city’s main street remembered the significance. Even in Hawaii, some hadn’t a clue. A Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter found six of 15 people polled on December 7 didn’t know it was the anniversary.

Even then-President Truman didn’t attend any observance ceremonies for Pearl Harbor. He was vacationing in Key West at the time.

pearl harbor 75th anniversary

Elvis Presley arrives at the airport in Honolulu before his USS Arizona Benefit Concert, March 25, 1961.

20th Anniversary

Memorial ceremonies on the 20th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks took place on a platform overlooking Battleship Row. The ceremonies started at 7:55 a.m.—the exact time when Japanese attackers had swarmed the Hawaiian skies 20 years earlier. Flowers floated on the water over the USS Arizona and carillon chimes sounded from Ford Island to honor those killed.

In March 1961, nine months before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, something remarkable took place. Elvis Presley held a benefit concert to raise funds for the construction of the USS Arizona Memorial. Staged at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena, his concert collected over $50,000 for the memorial—officially dedicated on May 30, 1962. The Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary will mark 54 years since its inception.

50th Anniversary

1991 marked the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks in Hawaii. Then-President Bush spoke at a commemorative event. (He himself was shot down by Japanese forces in the Pacific in 1944, as a Navy pilot.)

“I have no rancor in my heart toward Germany or Japan—none at all. I hope you have none in yours. This is no time for recrimination… World War II is over. It is history. We won. We crushed totalitarianism, and when that was done we helped our enemies give birth to democracies,” he said.

The 50th anniversary events began with an early ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, where 776 victims of the Pearl Harbor attack have a final resting place. The Hawaiian National Guard’s fighter jets flew over Pearl Harbor in a tribute to the Americans who died. Like past commemorations, attendees observed a moment of silence and President Bush laid flowers on the water above the Arizona. More than 2,000 survivors also marched in a parade down Kalakaua Avenue.

Plans for the Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary

Between December 1 and December 11, there will be memorial events held each day. These range from military band performances and veteran tributes to memorial services and the ringing of the Spirit of Liberty Foundation Freedom Bell. The Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary events are available at

Pearl Harbor Warbirds offers the best Hawai‘i flight adventure tours available. Be immersed in the details of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor and soar above the important sites that played a part in the “Day of Infamy.” Relive history as you retrace the steps of the Army and Navy airmen in the days following the bombing. Fly on some of the same routes the Japanese attackers used into the airfields at Wheeler, Kāne‘ohe and Bellows. There are many air tours in Hawai‘i, but only one warbird airplane flight. Located in Honolulu, Hawai‘i Pearl Harbor Warbirds provides a personal historical experience making it one of the best O‘ahu attractions.

Experience an immersive two-hour adventure that allows you to relive history as a Naval Aviator and fly Pearl Harbor like it was on December 10th, 1941. Learn more about the Admiral’s Warbird Adventure.

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