Cover photo: The forward end of West Virginia (BB 48) – built at Newport News Shipbuilding – was engulfed in flames immediately following the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor. Tennessee (BB 43) is on the ship’s opposite side. U.S. Navy photo.

80 Years Later: Remembering the Pearl Harbor Attack

Published December 7, 2021

Dec. 7 marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which drew the United States into World War II. The surprise attack on the American naval base killed 2,403, including members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as civilians. More than 1,100 were wounded.

In an address to Congress the following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.”

Several vessels damaged during the attack were built at Newport News Shipbuilding – including Pennsylvania (BB 38), West Virginia (BB 48) and Maryland (BB 46). West Virginia was one of five ships sunk during the attack that were refloated and repaired. Pennsylvania and Maryland were both damaged during the attack and later repaired.

Doris Miller, namesake of the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier – CVN 81 – which is under construction at NNS, is credited with heroic actions while serving aboard West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His bravery earned him the Navy Cross. CVN 81 will be the first aircraft carrier named for an African American and the first named in honor of a sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.

Three Virginia-class submarines currently under construction at NNS – Utah (SSN 801), Oklahoma (SSN 802) and Arizona
(SSN 803) – also share a connection to Pearl Harbor. They share their names with ships that were destroyed during the attack – Utah (AG 16), Oklahoma (BB 37) and Arizona (BB 39).

“This solemn anniversary stands as another reminder of just how important shipbuilders are to our nation. The women and men of Newport News Shipbuilding work behind the scenes day and night to deliver the most technologically advanced warships ever built to defend our freedom, to protect our military women and men, and to honor their namesakes,” said NNS President Jennifer Boykin. “We honor the heroes of Dec. 7, 1941, with every aircraft carrier and submarine we deliver to the U.S. Navy.”