Joe Biden marks 80th anniversary of attack on Pearl Harbour

US president lays wreath at memorial as number of Americans who lived through the Second World War dwindles

US President Joe Biden salutes while participating in a wreath-laying ceremony as he visits the World War II Memorial on the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour. EPA

The US marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on Tuesday as the number of Americans belonging to the "greatest generation" who lived through the Second World War dwindles.

The attack on December 7, 1941, shook a country that had been so focused on the Second World War in Europe that it had lost sight of the threat posed by Japan, according to historians. It killed 2,390 Americans, and the US declared war on Japan the next day.

US President Joe Biden visited the World War II Memorial in Washington early Tuesday morning to observe the anniversary, saluting a symbolic wreath among the columns. First lady Jill Biden laid a bouquet at the memorial's New Jersey pillar in honour of her father, Donald Jacobs, who served as a US Navy Signalman in the war.

In this handout image courtesy of the US Navy, a veteran from the Second World War observes the USS Arizona Memorial during a harbour tour as part of the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbour Remembrance on December 5, 2021. "AFP Photo / US Navy / Petty Officer 1st class Sean La Marr

In Hawaii, a memorial ceremony was held on location at Pearl Harbour on a rainy Monday evening to honour the 58 servicemen who died aboard the battleship USS Utah, the first ship hit in the attack.

"On the morning of December 7, 1941, in the first few minutes of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Utah was hit by two torpedoes, which caused serious flooding," US Navy Commander Jason Adams said.

"Chief Tomich stayed in the engine room, keeping the boiler as stable as possible to allow his sailors to get off the ship. Utah capsized killing 58 men in 12 minutes," Mr Adams said, referring to Peter Tomich, the ship's chief watertender.

Tomich died on board the ship.

Members of the US Navy, veterans, friends and family members stood as the names of those who died were read out, each accompanied by a toll of a bell. The bugle call "Taps" was then played on a trumpet near the site of the sinking.

Several other remembrances organised by the National Park Service and the US Navy will be held to mark the day.

The bombing was famously dubbed "a date which will live in infamy" by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The US defeated Japan in August 1945, days after US atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Eighty years later, a dwindling number of survivors and veterans remain.

Former Republican US Senator Bob Dole, who overcame grievous combat wounds from the Second World War, died on Sunday at age 98. The memorial wreath on Tuesday contained a wild sunflower, the state flower of Kansas, in honour of Dole's home state, the White House said.

Former US President George H.W. Bush, who joined the US Navy after the Pearl Harbour attack, died in 2018 at age 84.

Updated: December 7th 2021, 7:04 PM