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Q&A: The toll of deaths and damage at Pearl Harbor

The toll at Pearl Harbor

What was the official death toll and damage done by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor?

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the United States into World War II.

Killed were 2,402 people, including 57 civilians, and another 1,282 were wounded. More than 1,175 sailors died when the USS Arizona was sunk. Twenty-one of the 96 ships anchored were sunk. Of the almost 400 planes at nearby military airfields, 188 were destroyed and 155 were damaged.

Taps dates to Civil War

What is the origin for the sounding of taps in the U.S. armed services? By whom was it written, and what are the lyrics?

Taps began as a revision to the bugle call for Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at the end of the day. During the Civil War, Gen. Daniel Butterfield did not like the original call for Extinguish Lights, saying it was too formal. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, Butterfield wrote taps to honor his men after the Seven Days Battle. The haunting call sounded that night in July 1862, and it soon spread to other units of the Union and Confederate armies. While there are no official words to taps, the most popular are:

Day is done, Gone the sun,

From the hills, From the lake, From the skies.

All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Why veterans' ranks declining

I've heard that the number of living U.S. veterans has been steadily declining in recent decades. Why has this happened?

That's because the military has never produced as many vets as it did in the 1940s.

There were more than 12 million people in uniform at the peak strength of the armed forces in 1945, a draft military that fought World War II. When the war ended, the size of the military dropped to 2.5 million by the next year. There are 1.4 million people in the active duty all-volunteer Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force today.

Meanwhile, as the active forces have gotten smaller, aging veterans have been dying at a rate of well over 630,000 a year since 2000.

Origins of 'Kilroy was here'

During World War II, the slogan "Kilroy was here" was written all over the world. How did that start?

"Kilroy" was James J. Kilroy, an inspector at a Quincy, Mass., shipyard. He wrote "Kilroy was here" on ships and crates of equipment to indicate he had inspected them. The phrase caught on among the GIs, who wrote it wherever they went.

Q&A: The toll of deaths and damage at Pearl Harbor 12/06/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 6, 2009 3:30am]
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