A few dozen elderly men who survived the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor 74 years ago gathered today at the site to remember fellow servicemen who didn’t make it.
The U.S. Navy and National Park Service hosted a ceremony in remembrance of those killed on Dec. 7, 1941. More than 3,000 people joined the survivors.
Adm. Harry Harris, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, said the day “must forever remain burned into the American consciousness.”
“For 74 years, we’ve remembered Pearl Harbor. We’ve remained vigilant. And today’s armed forces are ready to answer the alarm bell,” said Harris, who leads the U.S. Pacific Command.
He said the military was also working to “keep the alarm bell from sounding in the first place” by refocusing its attention on Asia and the Pacific region with the aim of maintaining stability, prosperity and peace.
Ed Schuler, 94, said he keeps returning to Pearl Harbor to honor his old shipmates killed on the USS Arizona.
He said 125 sailors from his ship, a light cruiser called the USS Phoenix, had transferred to the Arizona the day before the attack. They were all killed, he said.
“I come back just to renew my acquaintance,” said Schuler, who lives in San Jose, California.
Robert Irwin of Cameron Park, California, was in the barracks when the attack began and saw Japanese planes flying overhead. A fellow sailor saw a Rising Sun insignia on the wings and asked Irwin if he knew what the “red ball” was.
The seaman first class hopped on a truck that took him to the USS Pennsylvania, where he fed ammunition to the deck of the battleship.
“It brings back some lousy memories,” said Irwin, of returning to Pearl Harbor. But he comes to the annual ceremony because the attack was a “big thing in my life.” The 91 year old served as firefighter in San Francisco after the war and retired as a lieutenant in 1979.
The event was held on a Navy pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial. The pier straddles the battleship that sank nine minutes after being hit. It remains a gravesite for many of those killed.
One part of the ceremony didn’t not go as planned.
The Navy destroyer USS Preble was scheduled to sound its whistle to start a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the attack began 74 years ago. Hawaii Air National Guard F-22s were due to fly overhead to break the silence about 45 seconds later.
But Navy Region Hawaii spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan said the program was running behind, and the Preble didn’t sound its whistle. Fighter jets flew overhead on schedule, but the master of ceremonies was still speaking.
A moment of silence was held shortly afterward.
Tauyan said everyone came together to honor and remember the war dead and those who survived the attack. She said the Navy heard nothing but positive feedback about the ceremony.
“I feel we’ve accomplished our mission,” she said. Tauyan characterized the problem with the moment of silence as a “small glitch.”
More than 2,400 sailors, Marines, and soldiers were killed at Pearl Harbor and other military installations on the island of Oahu.