The first meeting of what would become the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association (PHSA) took place on December 7, 1954 at the Del Camino Room in Gardena, California where eleven survivors of the attack gathered to remember their fallen comrades and dear friends. It was at this first meeting that those in attendance swore that they would make the commemoration an annual event.
At the association's official founding dinner in 1958 with thirteen survivors present, the eleven survivors who were present at the 1954 meeting were proclaimed the Founding Fathers of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Those eleven survivors were: Clarence Bonn, Mark Ferris, George Haines Jr. Edward Kronberger, Robert Kronberger, Samuel Kronberger, Raymond LeBer, George Schafer, Louis P. Smith, Ed Steffa, and James C. Taneyhill. Following the 1958 meeting, the members began searching for other military survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.
A dinner of the group on December 7, 1960, led to the first Pearl Harbor Survivors Association National Reunion at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California where over 300 survivors joined in commemoration of the event on December 7, 1961. President John F. Kennedy sent his personal representative to this convention. Over 1,000 survivors attended the PHSA National Reunion held at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach, California on December 7–8, 1962. At this meeting, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association constitution was presented and ratified by the members. Mark Ferris, who initiated the group's first meeting in 1954, after visiting a reunion held for members of the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48), was chosen as the PHSA's first national president. Also, an official PHSA prayer to be said at association reunions was adopted. In October 1964, the PHSA issued its first quarterly newsletter to its members named the Pearl Harbor-Gram. After the national reunion was held in Hawaii, December 4–10, 1966 in honor of the 25th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the national reunion was to be held bi-annually on even numbered years only (the state chapters reunions would be on the odd number years).
The organization was incorporated under the laws of the State of Missouri and the PHSA National Insignia was registered in Washington D.C. An official PHSA flag containing the PHSA's national insignia which shows an American bald eagle in flight holding a large bomb in its claws within a large circle, was made available for association members in April 1966.
On February 24, 1996, 73 PHSA members attended the christening and launching of the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) at the Avondale Shipyard located on the west bank of the Mississippi River near New Orleans, Louisiana. The arriving members were greeted by many naval officers including Admiral Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations. The members were introduced to the over 600 other military and civilian honorees in attendance who also were invited. At the 1998 PHSA's National Convention in Las Vegas, a PHSA Scholarship program was adopted. A scholarship was open to any U.S. citizen who is a direct descendant of a PHSA member or deceased member, including step or adopted children.
On December 7, 2011, during the 70th anniversary ceremony in Hawaii of the attack on Pearl Harbor ("Pearl Harbor Day"), William Muehleib, the President of the PHSA, announced that due to the ages and health of the 2,700 members, the executive board had decided to terminate the corporate association as of December 31 of that year. The Pearl Harbor-Gram closed its membership in February 2012. However, informal social and local activities involving Pearl Harbor survivors were to continue. Peak membership for the association was 18,000 members nationally and over 70,000 members worldwide.