At the order of the President, flags at federal facilities in Washington, D.C. were flown at half staff as a reminder of what happened 71 years ago in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese Empire staged a surprise aerial assault.
An honor guard (with flags from all 50 states) assembled at the U.S. Navy Memorial for a sometimes-somber ceremony to remember that more than 2,400 Americans died in the attack.
90-year-old Frank Yanik helped lay a ceremonial wreath. Yanik was a 19-year-old sailor about the U.S.S. Phoenix during the Japanese attack. Yanik scrambled from below to get to his battle station on the deck of the cruiser.
"I tried to get out," explained Yanik. "They said: 'Close, secure all hatches.' I knew something was wrong. I tried to get up in that hole, and I had my high school ring on, and I ripped it off because they were trying to close that hatch. And I wasn't going to let them do that because we were surrounded by ammunition. No way they were going to get me down there."
Once on deck, Yanik manned an anti-aircraft gun which was not at all designed for the close-in combat that was already underway.
"I was the one that pulled the trigger on the [anti-aircraft] guns that would fire six miles," he said. "In fact, I shot one down ... I shot one down so close that the debris fell on the ship."
Yanik (and the U.S.S. Phoenix) survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yanik and his ship also survived 23 more naval engagements during World War II.
Asked what lessons the U.S. should take away from that devastating attack 71 years ago, the retired barber from Falls Church, Va. says: "Beware. Be prepared. Carry a big stick."