Tuesday, October 6, 2015         

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Dec. 7 survivors keep organization going

About 90 members will attend the 69th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack

By William Cole


As a large number of Pearl Harbor survivors near or already in their 90s prepare to attend the 69th commemoration of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack today in Hawaii, members of the group decided to keep their national organization going a little longer.

Some board members with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association had broached the possibility of calling the formal organization quits while still maintaining social gatherings.

Officials said the potential change came in recognizing that advancing age and dwindling membership made it difficult to run the nonprofit corporation.

But new national President William Muehleib said yesterday that the association, founded in 1958 and chartered by Congress in 1985, will keep going as long as members are able to perform required responsibilities. The association is holding its national convention in Hawaii.


The theme of this year's ceremony is "A Promise Fulfilled":
» 6-7 a.m.: Shuttle buses leave from Aloha Stadium Lower Halawa parking lot. (No public parking will be available at the Visitor Center.) Guests must be seated by 7:15 a.m.
» 7:40 a.m.: Ceremony begins, with Thomas Strickland, assistant secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks, as keynote speaker.
» 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: USS Arizona Memorial tours
» 1:30-2:30 p.m.: USS Oklahoma Memorial Commemoration, Ford Island. Free shuttle departs every 15 minutes from the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.


» Security: Cameras allowed, but no camera bags, purses, handbags and/or other items that offer concealment. Bag storage available at Bowfin museum.

"We are going to continue (the association) until we no longer have the administrative ability to continue the requirements of a corporate structure or our charter. But now we can still do that," said Muehleib, 88, who survived the 1941 attack on Hickam Field.

Muehleib, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., also emphasized that that is the situation "for the present."

"We still have that option (to dissolve) if we choose to take it. But we did not choose to take it," he said.

The survivors association is down to about 3,000 members from a high of about 28,000, Muehleib said. About 90 members attended yesterday's business meeting.

The group did decide to reduce eight districts nationally to four to save money.

About 200 Pearl Harbor survivors are attending today's commemoration of America's defense against the surprise Japanese attack, as well as the dedication of the National Park Service's new $56 million visitor center and museum.

The survivors association moved up its big convention in Hawaii, normally held every five years, by a year so members could be part of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center opening. Only about 40 survivors attended the commemoration last year.

The survivors will participate in a "Walk of Honor" through a cordon of more than 100 armed forces and Park Service members.

Their age also brought a new urgency to return to Pearl Harbor. About 500 family members made the trip with them.

Eleven members of Muehleib's family are here for the commemoration.

Jack Rogo, 89, who as a Navy storekeeper on Ford Island helped transport the wounded, said he had planned to have about seven relatives with him.

The ceremony marks a return to the now-expanded visitor center grounds from the Navy's nearby Kilo Pier. About 3,000 chairs have been set up for the event.

Across the water at the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Honolulu police officer Karl Steininger, 48, who served as a New York City police officer on Sept. 11, 2001, is among a group of local service heroes nominated to ceremonially stitch a restorative Hawaii patch onto the National 9/11 Flag today on the fantail of the ship.

Left tattered after the collapse of the World Trade Center, the National 9/11 Flag is journeying across America and is being stitched back together with pieces of American flags from each state.

New York City firefighters arrived with the historic flag in Honolulu yesterday. The flag will be on display noon to 3 p.m. at the USS Missouri.

On 9/11, Steininger, on duty with the 104th Precinct, transported medical supplies to St. Vincent's Hospital. He was involved with the rescue, search and recovery efforts for a month.

Star-Advertiser reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.


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