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79th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack honored in virtual ceremony

A view looking down Battleship Row at the Pearl Harbor naval base from Ford Island Naval Air Station, shortly after the Japanese torpedo plane attack on December 7, 1941. USS California is at left, listing to port after receiving two torpedo hits. In the center are USS Maryland with the capsized USS Oklahoma alongside. Most smoke is from USS Arizona. File Photo by U.S. Navy
A view looking down Battleship Row at the Pearl Harbor naval base from Ford Island Naval Air Station, shortly after the Japanese torpedo plane attack on December 7, 1941. USS California is at left, listing to port after receiving two torpedo hits. In the center are USS Maryland with the capsized USS Oklahoma alongside. Most smoke is from USS Arizona. File Photo by U.S. Navy

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Monday marks the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, the event most responsible for the U.S. entry into World War II -- but the remembrance ceremony will be virtual this year due to COVID-19.

Officials have decided against the usual in-person event featuring surviving veterans, many of whom are now close to 100 years old. Instead, there will be a live streamed event with no public attendance, beginning at 8 a.m. HST (1 p.m. EST).

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"Out of an abundance of caution, we will not have WWII veterans at the ceremony but are ensuring they all have the information to view it virtually," said Lydia Robertson, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Hawaii.

The ceremony will honor the 2,400 service members and civilians who died during the surprise Japanese attack on the island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. Another 1,200 were injured in the strikes, which also destroyed close to 200 aircraft and famously sank multiple battleships -- including the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia and USS California -- and spurred the United States to enter World War II.

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"Huge fires were raging at Pearl Harbor at 1:10 this afternoon and five Navy vessels appeared to have been destroyed in the air raids. One ship had turned over on its side," UPI reported on the day of the attack. "The base itself apparently was extensively damaged in the raids and great clouds of smoke rose above it."

The following day, Dec. 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous address to a joint session of Congress in which he said Dec. 7 "is a date which will live in infamy."

"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," he declared, as reported by UPI that day.

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"I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again."

The theme for the 2020 event is "Above and Beyond the Call" with a focus on "Battlefield Oahu."

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Five survivors will be granted priority access to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, along with four family members, after the ceremony ends. Robertson said officials had come up with "another way for them to be out at the site and to have their private moment."

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In observance of the anniversary, several state governors issued orders for state and U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff on Monday. Next year will be the event's 80th anniversary.

U.S. commemorates Pearl Harbor Day ceremony in D.C.

A military honor guard presents the colors during a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on December 7. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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