MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Friday marks the 71st anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War II. An early morning surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, thrust America headfirst into an all-out war in the Pacific with the Empire of Japan.
According to the National Archives, “On December 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, was subject to an attack that was one of the greatest military surprises in the history of warfare.”
In attacking Pearl Harbor, the Empire of Japan sought to preemptively eliminate the Pacific Fleet, and thus the U.S. military, as a threat. The opposite occurred. The morning after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress and the nation to declare war.
“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. Japan has … undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves,” the president said. “As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
Marines distinguished themselves in the war that followed. Battles at places that included Wake Island, Midway, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa solidified the Marine Corps’ place in history as the world’s preeminent amphibious fighting force.
Marine aviation also carved its place in the history books. In fact, construction began here on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. just 17 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the Pacific theater, Marine pilots downed their first enemy aircraft at Wake Island and their last in the Battle of Okinawa. Over the course of the war, Marine aviation shot down 2,355 Japanese aircraft.