75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
December 7, 2016, marks the solemn 75th anniversary of Japan’s surprise air attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. The attack, which started early in the morning, killed about 2,400 American servicemen and caused extensive damage to numerous U.S. ships, most notably the USS Arizona.
The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress and called the attack “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress declared war with Japan and joined World War II, which had been ongoing in Europe since 1939. On December 11, the U.S. also joined World War II in Europe when it declared war on Germany and Italy.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the key events in American history. With victory in 1945, the United States became the defender of freedom around the world – and the men who fought so heroically (and often sacrificed their lives) were known as the “greatest generation.”
As a result of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entering World War II, the U.S. Mint was forced to alter the composition of the Penny and Nickel. The 1943 Penny was struck in steel to make copper available for shell casings, and the 1944-1946 coins were made with copper that was recycled from used shell casings. Starting in 1942, the Nickel was made in 35% silver to free up copper and nickel for military supplies.
One of the best ways to remember Pearl Harbor and America’s World War II experience is with coins and bank notes that actually circulated at that time. One of the most fascinating collections is the Pearl Harbor Coin Collection, which includes a Steel Penny, Shell Case Penny, and Silver Nickel – as well as a $10 Japanese Invasion Note that the Japanese planned to use in place of U.S. currency following a successful invasion of the United States. Fortunately, the note was never needed, and a few have miraculously survived since the war.
Other collections also pay tribute to World War II, such as World War II Lincoln Pennies (including Steel Pennies), World War II Emergency Bank Note, and the U.S. Mint’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Silver Dollar.