PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — More than 2,000 people at Pearl Harbor and many more around the country on Friday marked the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack that killed thousands of people and launched the United States into World War II.

The USS Michael Murphy, a recently christened ship named after a Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, sounded its ship's whistle to start a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact time the bombing began in 1941.

Crew members lined the edge of the Navy guided-missile destroyer in the harbor where the USS Arizona and USS Utah, battleships that sank in the attack, still lie. Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighter jets flew overhead in a special "missing man" formation to break the silence.

"Let us remember that this is where it all began. Let us remember that the arc of history was bent at this place 71 years ago today and a generation of young men and women reached deep and rose up to lead our nation to victory," Rhea Suh, Interior Department assistant secretary, told the crowd. "Let us remember and be forever grateful for all of their sacrifices."

About 30 survivors, many using walkers and canes, attended the commemoration.

Edwin Schuler, of San Jose, Calif., said he remembered going up to the bridge of his ship, the USS Phoenix, to read a book on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in 1941 when he saw planes dropping bombs.

"I thought: `Whoa, they're using big practice bombs.' I didn't know," said Schuler, 91.

Schuler said he's returned for the annual ceremony about 30 times because it's important to spread the message of remembering Pearl Harbor.

Ewalt Shatz, 89, said returning to Pearl Harbor "keeps the spirit going, the remembering of what can happen."

Shatz, who lives in Riverside, Calif., was on board the USS Patterson that morning when the alarm sounded. His more experienced shipmates were down below putting a boiler back together so Shatz found himself manning a 50-caliber machine gun for the first time. The Navy credited him with shooting a Japanese plane.

"That was some good shooting," said U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Cecil Haney who recounted Shatz' experience in the keynote address. "Thank you for your courage and tenacity – our nation is truly grateful."

Online, Pearl Harbor became a popular topic on Facebook and other social networks, trending worldwide on Twitter and Google Plus as people marked the anniversary with status updates, personal stories of family and photos.

The Navy and National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department, hosted the ceremonies held in remembrance of the 2,390 service members and 49 civilians killed in the attack.

Friday's event gave special recognition to members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who flew noncombat missions during World War II, and to Ray Emory, a 91-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who has pushed to identify the remains of unknown servicemen.

The ceremony also included a Hawaiian blessing, songs played by the U.S. Pacific Fleet band and a rifle salute from the U.S. Marine Corps. An F-22 fighter jet used in the flyover later scraped its tail on a runway while landing about 90 minutes after the ceremony.

President Barack Obama marked the day on Thursday by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance and honor military service members and veterans.

"Today, we pay solemn tribute to America's sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu," Obama said in a statement. "As we do, let us also reaffirm that their legacy will always burn bright – whether in the memory of those who knew them, the spirit of service that guides our men and women in uniform today, or the heart of the country they kept strong and free."

Daniel Inouye, Hawaii's senior U.S. senator and a member of an Army unit of Japanese-Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II, said the Pearl Harbor attack evoked anger, fierce patriotism and racism.

"Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in," the Democrat said.

The Navy and park service will resume taking visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits atop the sunken battleship, after the ceremony.

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  • USS West Virginia

    This photo, from December 7, 1941, shows the USS West Virginia in flames after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • US Pacific Fleet

    This photo shows the massive impact of the surprise attack, which destroyed the United States Pacific Fleet. The attack was conducted by 360 Japanese warplanes.

  • Naval Air Station

    Members of the U.S. military stand near airplane wreckage during the surprise Japanese aerial attack at the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii December 7, 1941. December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in which over 2,400 members of the United States military were killed. Picture taken December 7, 1941.

  • USS Arizona

    The USS Arizona, pictured here, sunk after being bombed. 1,177 servicemembers on board were killed.

  • USS California

    The USS California burns after being hit by a 500-pound bomb and a torpedo during the aerial attack.

  • USS Shaw

    Three bombs hit the USS Shaw during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

  • USS Arizona Memorial

    Vice Admiral Michael Vitale, pictured here on December 7, 2010, stops for a moment at the USS Arizona memorial during a remembrance service.

  • Lone Sailor Statue

    A wreath was placed on the Lone Sailor statue at the Naval Memorial in Washington, DC on December 7, 2003.

  • The Healing Field

    A family looks out on the Healing Field at the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii on December 7, 2007. The "field" features 2,500 flags.

  • Survivor Carl LaBarre

    Carl LaBarre, who survived the attacks on the USS California, is pictured here at a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery in 2001.

  • 70th Anniversary

    A U.S. Marine firing detail prepares for a memorial service for the 70th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu on December 7, 2011in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)