“A date which will live in infamy”

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.


The Greatest Generation …

World War II 

World War II may have ended more than 70 years ago in 1945, but it remains one of the most fascinating and historic events in world history. For the first time, the great leaders of the world stood together to face down a powerful enemy … and the “greatest generation” led us to victory and the preservation of liberty and democracy. 

Even today, we look back on the events of World War II with awe and admiration. Every day and every week, we can find an event that changed history more than 70 years ago. Just look at the events that took place on these days in 1944 alone: 

  • October 20, 1944. In the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur set foot in the Philippines for the first time since his escape in 1942, fulfilling his famous promise, "I shall return” – and setting the scene for victory against the Japanese in the months ahead. 
  • October 21, 1944. In Europe, American troops captured Aachen in western Germany after a week of hard fighting. It was the first large German city to fall – and it allowed U.S. and Allied forces to move further into Germany and bring to war to an end in early 1945. 

Unique World War II Collectibles 

World War II collectibles have always been popular, both for their historic significance and as reminders of the sacrifices our forefathers made for us. During the war, Americans made great contributions to the war effort – giving up luxuries and necessities so that the boys fighting overseas could have whatever they needed for victory. 

One of the most remarkable sacrifices was nickel, which was needed for guns, tanks, and other essential war supplies. Instead of nickel, the U.S. Mint struck nickels in 35% silver during the war from 1942 to 1945 – and the complete collection of World War II Nickels is an exceptional collector’s item that has a unique link to the war. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury produced special $1 Silver Certificates for use exclusively by troops in the Pacific and North Africa. The U.S. government was afraid that large amounts of U.S. currency might fall into enemy hands – and could potentially be used to buy weapons for use against U.S. forces in the war. Instead of the usual blue Treasury seals, these “emergency” World War II $1 Silver Certificates were made with yellow seals for use in North Africa and brown seals for use in Hawaii and the Pacific . Amazingly, a small number of these notes still exist! 

Another popular and remarkable collector’s item that dates to the war is the Pearl Harbor Coin Collection and Japanese Invasion Note collection. This collection includes a 35% silver Nickel, a 1943 Lincoln Penny that was made in steel because copper was needed for the war effort, a 1944 Lincoln Penny was made with recycled copper from shell cases recovered from battlefields and ships, and a $10 Invasion Note that the Japanese planned to use in place of national currency in the Pacific. Fortunately, the $10 bill was never needed in Hawaii! 

Finally, the U.S. Mint struck a stunning commemorative silver dollar to mark the 50th anniversary of World War II. Dated “1991-1995” but struck in 1993, it features an American soldier on the beach of Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944). This coin is now more than 20 years old, but it is the key to any collection of World War II commemoratives.