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Veterans Gather On USS Midway To Remember Pearl Harbor

Veterans marked the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at a remembrance ceremony aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum in downtown San Diego today.

Dec. 7, 1941: The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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Above: Dec. 7, 1941: The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The event, co-hosted by the museum and the San Diego Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, included the tossing of a wreath overboard to honor the 20 members of the group who died over the past year. The tall ship California, which docks at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, fired a cannon to salute the veterans.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, 353 Japanese warplanes killed about 2,400 Americans, wounded more than 1,200, sank four U.S. battleships and damaged four others. Also sunk or damaged were three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and a minelayer.

The surprise attack, which lasted about two hours, thrust the nation into World War II, which was already raging in Europe and Asia.

"When people do that to us, we get even with them real quick,'' survivor King Splitt told CBS8.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt went to Congress the next day to ask for a declaration of war, and Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. a few days later.

Japan's military went on a rampage across the Pacific and Indian oceans in the six months after the attack while the U.S. prepared to build up forces in England as part of the allies' "Germany First'' strategy.

The U.S. turned the tide of the Pacific War when Navy dive bombers sank four Japanese aircraft carriers off Midway in June 1942. The aircraft carrier-turned-museum along the downtown waterfront is named after that battle.

In a turnabout, several of the battleships heavily damaged at Pearl Harbor -- after extensive repairs -- helped turn back the Japanese Navy's final offensive in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which took place in October 1944 off the Philippines. Japan surrendered 10 months later.

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