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Survivors return to Pearl Harbor to mark 80th anniversary of WWII attack

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Survivors return to Pearl Harbor to mark 80th anniversary of WWII attack
President Joe Biden salutes while participating in a wreath-laying at the World War II Memorial on the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Washington on Tuesday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Dozens of survivors of the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii gathered Tuesday to mark the 80th anniversary of the event that sent the United States into World War II.

About 40 Pearl Harbor survivors and 110 World War II veterans attended the 80th Remembrance Ceremony at Kilo Pier in Honolulu to commemorate the loss of 2,400 service members and civilians during the surprise Japanese attack on the island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

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It marked the return of surviving veterans, many of whom are now close to 100 years old, after a scaled-back ceremony last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro was the keynote speaker, offering praise for those who died during the attack and those who survived and went on to fight in World War II.

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"As a sailor with the privilege of command, I'm in awe when I look at on Pearl Harbor every day and see the memorials that surround this iconic base. They're reminders of the sacrifice of so many who paid the ultimate price for our freedom," del Toro said.

The memorials "stand as testaments to all of us who serve here in Hawaii and around the world, both military and civilian, of the generation that placed others and country before self, rushing to answer the call of duty when our nation and the world lay on the precipice of darkness. The veterans here today represent their shipmates, Marines, battle buddies, wingmen, families and friends aptly named the greatest generation."

The event also included a performance by the Pacific Fleet Band, a wreath presentation and a flyover.

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In Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the World War II Memorial Tuesday morning to participate in a wreath-laying.

The attack famously sank multiple battleships -- including the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia and USS California -- and directly prompted the United States to enter World War II.

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Other events on Tuesday included a memorial ceremony for the 429 crew members killed on the USS Oklahoma and the reinternment of the 33 remaining unknown sailors on the ship.

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"Through the six-year effort of Project Oklahoma, 355 of 388 sailors and Marines have been identified," the National Parks Service said.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and effectively forced the United States to enter WWII.

"A Japanese dive bomber, torpedo plane and parachute raid on the great American naval and air base [caused] heavy loss of life and property damage in an unprovoked assault which precipitated a general war in the Pacific," United Press, the forerunner to UPI, reported on the day of the attack.

Sailors are seen amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base as they watch the USS Shaw explode in the center background, during the Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The USS Nevada is also visible in the middle background, with her bow headed toward the left. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

"Attacking planes, several of which were reported shot down, clearly bore the insignia of the rising sun."

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The event began nearly four years of war for the United States, until the end of WWII in the second half of 1945.

"Dec. 7 was a catalyst that led to a changed world," Pacific Historic Parks said in a statement. "The 80th Commemoration will tell the story of the multi-pronged attack across the Pacific and in particular the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"The goal of the commemoration is to ensure that future generations will understand the valor and legacy of those who perished and those who fought throughout the war. The commemoration also highlights the importance of the peace that brought reconciliation, a reconciliation that continues to move forward today in creating a better future for all."

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