PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Dec. 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy unleashed a surprise attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and Airfields in Ewa, windward and central Oahu.
More than 350 Japanese aircraft were launched in two waves from six carriers.
In total, 21 ships were damaged or destroyed including eight battleships.
More than 2,300 people were killed including 49 civilians.
Among those losses, 1,177 men were killed aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. The sunken memorial lives on as a constant remind of that infamous day.
A ceremony was held Wednesday at the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument located on the back lawn of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
A standing crowd of more than 3,000 filled the lawn at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. They came to salute those who lost their lives and honor those who survived the December 7th, 1941 attack.
PBS President, Leslie Wilcox lead the memorial service and shared her gratitude for the brave men and women that served during Pearl Harbor. "Ladies and gentlemen, these are heroes who bravely stood at their posts and by their shipmates and superbly executed their duties during the worst attack our nation had ever seen at that time."
About 120 Pearl Harbor survivors attended the ceremony. There will almost certainly never be another gathering of survivors this large. Retired sailor from the USS Sacramento, Harold Dove attended the event and said that he was glad that he was able to attend the ceremony on the front lines of where he fought 70 years ago. "At my age, I'm 94 and I don't know how long I'll be able to travel," said Dove.
Retired Navy of the USS Detroit, Zane Lindsey, was glad that he was not going to miss such a monumental anniversary of Pearl Harbor , "If you think about it and you are around 80-something years old, you are going to take advantage of everything you can to keep moving around…Lots better not to miss".
The men renewed old acquaintances and made new friends with people eager to hear first-hand accounts of the attack.
Retired Navy of the USS West Virginia, Gerry Porter shared some of his memories of the December 7th.
"They sounded general quarters and I went to my battle station, but before i could get there we got our first torpedo and then another one," said Porter. "I saw the first plane come across the harbor and it dropped ... Went right behind our ship and dropped a torpedo that hit the Oklahoma," said Dove.
The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus also spoke at the ceremony, saying Americans rightly honor all veterans and that all veterans hold a special place. A special place for those who served at pearl harbor 70 years ago; special because of their sacrifice; special because even though they were caught by surprise, they defended this harbor; and special because those who survived rebuilt and repaired the damage and went on to contribute to victory in World War II.
"To the survivors here today and to those who are with us only in spirit and memory, thank you. Thank you for your legacy. Thank you for the opportunity to honor your heroism," said Mabus