CBSN

Pearl Harbor Remembered

Pearl Harbor went silent at 7:55 a.m. on Monday morning, the exact moment that the Japanese began their surprise attack 57 years ago, plunging the United States into World War II.

Memorial celebrations in Hawaii honoring the 2,300 people who died in the raid included a mournful blast from the U.S.S. Russell.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, a CBS consultant, was 6 years old and living on a nearby Army base when the attack occurred. He told CBS Radio he was riding in a military truck to Sunday school when the Japanese bombs landed.

"I remember looking out and seeing a lot of airplanes flying around and the smoke and explosions and all that," he said.

"I was quite scared because I didn't know anything about war and I was pretty upset. I remember crying and my sister, who was older, was trying to comfort me."

Looking back on it with the benefit of his military experience, Smith said the attack may have been a brilliant military strategem on the part of the Japansese, but they made one strategic error: the bombing of Pearl Harbor united America as it had never been united before.

At least one survey shows younger Americans aren't aware of the significance of Dec. 7, 1941, a day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt predicted would "live in infamy."

The Oakland Tribune talked to about 30 youths at a shopping mall in San Leandro, California, and only one knew the significance of the date.