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Pearl Harbor Day
December 7, 1941  

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Day of Infamy
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Doris Miller  (Source: 
National Archives & 
Records Administration)

As the sun came up over the Pacific paradise of Oahu, Hawaii on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, U.S. Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Doris "Dorie" Miller did not help cook and serve breakfast as usual. Instead, Miller stood behind a machine gun on the deck of the U.S.S. West Virginia shooting at attacking Japanese aircraft. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Miller shot down several enemy planes. Miller was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery and continued to serve on active duty. On the morning of Nov. 24, 1943, Miller lost his life in the explosion and sinking of the U.S.S. Liscome Bay (CVE-56). Today, many Boys Clubs are named for U.S. Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Doris Miller.

Since the Revolutionary War, U.S. territory has rarely been attacked. Both Norfolk and Washington were threatened during the War of 1812. During the Spanish American War, port cities along the East Coast stood at high alert against possible attack by Spanish forces sailing from Cuba, but the attacks never came. 

Many Americans, including some military commanders, came to consider U.S. lands immune from enemy invasion. That feeling of immunity ended forever on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese Navy attacked the island of Oahu, Hawaii in two massive waves of carrier-based warplanes. 

The 2-hour Japanese attack sank 21 Navy ships, destroyed 185 military planes and killed 2,290 military personnel at bases throughout Hawaii, along with 48 civilians. Japan lost 29 planes and five midget submarines. The hull of the sunken U.S.S. Arizona became a tomb for 1,103 sailors.

From the death and destruction in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor rose a resolve to duty on the part of the American People that would culminate on September 2, 1945, with the surrender of Japan


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