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Pearl Harbor attack remembered at 70th anniversary

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 04:15 p.m. HST, Dec 07, 2011

The heroism and sacrifices of military members and civilians 70 years ago today were remembered in a ceremony rich with military pomp and symbolism at the water's edge of Pearl Harbor.

The guided missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon sounded its whistle and rendered honors to those killed in the attack, some still interred in the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, as well as to those still alive who witnessed the act of Japanese aggression on U.S. soil across Oahu.

The Chung Hoon is named after Gordon Paiea Chung-Hoon of Honolulu, who was stationed aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941 and later received the Navy Cross and Silver Star on his way to becoming a rear admiral.

This morning's ceremony included the blowing of conch shells, a Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Kau'ila Clark, a missing man formation flown by modern-day F-22 raptor war planes, a Marine rifle salute and the haunting wail of trumpets blowing "echo taps."

President Barack Obama hailed veterans of the bombing in a statement proclaiming Wednesday "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day."

"Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms," he said. 

The USS Arizona Memorial — a national landmark — continues to symbolize the attack on Pearl Harbor, but today's ceremony also honored the men and women across Oahu who witnessed the attack and fought back. 

"Today, our service men and women stationed in Hawaii continue the legacy of honor, courage and commitment of those who served before and witnessed that terrible morning of Dec. 7, 1941," emcee Leslie Wilcox told those who gathered for today's annual ceremony. 

Wilcox reminded the veterans and their families of the toll that spawned the war-time rallying cry of "Remember Pearl Harbor" — 2,351 military and 49 civilian casualties and the destruction or damage to 21 ships and 323 Army and Navy planes.

U.S. and state flags are also being flown at half-staff today in commemoration of the attack.

Wilcox asked military and civilian survivors from the various attack sites to stand in recognition. And those who were able, rose — sometimes wobbly — to applause.

The bell from the USS Arizona sounded as survivors were recognized from the World War II-era installations known as Wheeler Field, Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Ewa Mooring Mast Field, Hickam Field, Bellows Field and Schofield Barracks — as well as from the battleships Utah, West Virgina, Oklahoma, California, Nevada, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Arizona, which alone suffered 1,177 casualties.

A moment of silence, scheduled to begin at  7:55 a.m. — the moment that Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor and catapulted America into World War II in 1941 — took place a little later as the program ran long.

Only 334 officers, sailors and Marines survived the attack on the USS Arizona and today 17 sailors and one Marine are still known to be alive. The oldest, Joseph Langdell, is 97.

Seven surviving members of the USS Arizona attended this morning's ceremony, said Dean Harris, president of the USS Arizona Reunion Association. His father, Johan David "Dean" Harris, survived the attack on the Arizona and lived until 2001.

Today's remembrance represents one of the last official acts of the 2,700-member Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which will no longer continue as an incorporated organization on Dec. 31.

And this week's commemoration of Dec. 7, 1941 served as another reminder of the ages of the once young fighting men.

This afternoon, Navy divers plan to return the cremated remains of Vernon Olsen back aboard the sunken hull of his ship, the USS Arizona.

At least two of the seven remaining Arizona survivors also have expressed interest in having their remains returned to their ship, Harris said.

They traveled to Hawaii for today's ceremony from California, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

"Over the years, these men have served their shipmates as ambassadors, Harris said. "These guys are dedicated to perpetuating and memorializing the men who perished on that day. That's why they do this. There's a very strong pull for these guys to be with their shipmates."

Pearl Harbor survivor Don Baldrachi, 93, a retired Army staff sergeant, returned to Hawaii for the first time since a Pearl Harbor commemoration in 1993.

Baldrachi fired at bombers and fighter planes during the attack.

And while the memories of Dec. 7, 1941 came back to him this week, Baldrachi said  the events are never far away in his life Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

"There are seven days in the week and I think about it eight days a week," Baldrachi said. "If I'm not thinking about it, I'm dreaming about it."

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HD36 wrote:
Don't feel too bad. Over 166,000 people died from the atomic bomb we dropped on Hiroshima and over 80,000 people died from the atomic bomb we dropped in Nagasaki. How many died at Pearl Harbor?
on December 7,2011 | 07:42AM
volcanohereicome wrote:
to HD36: What a sad little person you are...my Dad and Uncle survived Pearl Harbor, with both passing in 2007. They served their country for 20 years in the Navy, with a pride they took to their graves. You show true ignorance and disrespect to the men and women who made it possible for you to make such comments.
on December 7,2011 | 09:14AM
HD36 wrote:
You are truly a brain washed mental midget.
on December 7,2011 | 01:19PM
volcanohereicome wrote:
I guess you can't cure stupid no matter how hard we try.
on December 7,2011 | 01:39PM
HD36 wrote:
Don't be mad at me, please, I honor your dad and uncle. You need to direct your anger at FDR, McAurther, and Admiral Stark. All knew of the impending attack from the code crackers but wanted it to happen so that we would have popular support for war. Japan was provoked into attacking the US by trade embargoes that would have left them starved. See Weapons of Mass Deception ..You Tube. History repeats itself .. ala 9/11
on December 7,2011 | 05:50PM
Fred01 wrote:
Nice. Go back to Japan.
on December 7,2011 | 09:15AM
honopic wrote:
HD36, you miss the point. Had there been no attack on Pearl Harbor to start the war, there likely would have been no need for the two bombs that finished it. Nobody knew the kind of devastation the atomic bomb would bring until Hiroshima. The major difference is that we had declared war 4 years earlier, so any weapons we used to end it were justified. And the Japanese military leaders share responsibility for Nagasaki by their stubborn refusal to surrender when it was obvious they could not win. Estimates of potential casualties if the bombs weren't dropped ran into the millions. We should all feel sorry for lives lost, on both sides. The true sadness is that now, 70 years after Pearl Harbor, we have not learned our lesson and wars continue to exist.
on December 7,2011 | 08:21AM
HD36 wrote:
The real sad part is that FDR knew of the impending attack at let it happen, sacrificing those at Pearl Harbor in order to get congressional approval to declare war. Remember, 80% of the US population was against entering the war. The United States provoked Japan into attacking by mining the waters untill they were down to 18 months left of oil and gas. Also, we had been amassing a huge fleet of B52 bombers in the Phillipines to bomb Japan or threaten them so that they attacked us. Why? What would be the motive? Money of course. There's more money in war for the Federal Reserve and the Illumanatti.
on December 7,2011 | 05:46PM
honopic wrote:
HD36, you are wrong again, on several counts. First, the U.S. put an embargo on Japan after the Japanese attacked China in 1931,capturing Manchuria and 5 other northern provinces, raping and killing hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians, including those in the infamous Rape of Nanjing in 1937. It wasn't until 4 years later that the military leaders chose to attack the U.S. without declaring war first. Second, the B52 bomber wasn't built until the 1950's, long after WWII ended. The first USAF B52 was put in service in 1955. Third, conspiracy theorists have been claiming for years that FDR knew about the impending attack, and not one shred of evidence has been found. Finally, if you're blame the illuminati, it behooves you to learn how to spell the word. As Abraham Lincoln said, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Think twice before your next comment. Better yet, think thrice and don't comment at all.
on December 8,2011 | 09:36AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
How embarrassing that Obama and all other living presidents did not fly in for the 70th anniversary. Shame on them!
on December 7,2011 | 11:01AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Go to www.hawaiiansong.com for a free download of "We Still Care, The Pearl Harbor Commemorative Song" and four other patriotic songs -- two narrated by U.S.Senator Daniel K. Inouye, WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Join more than 400,000 patriotic Americans who have done so... It's our gift, our way of paying tribute to our American servicemen and women, including those who gave their lives at Pearl on this date in1941.
on December 7,2011 | 03:45PM
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