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Today- 65th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack


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from AP-

 

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - This will be their last visit to this watery grave to share stories, exchange smiles, find peace and salute their fallen friends.

 

This, they say, will be their final farewell.

 

With their number quickly dwindling, survivors of Pearl Harbor will gather Thursday one last time to honor those killed by the Japanese 65 years ago, and to mark a date that lives in infamy.

 

"This will be one to remember," said Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "It's going to be something that we'll cherish forever."

 

The survivors have met here every five years for four decades, but they're now in their 80s or 90s and are not counting on a 70th reunion. They have made every effort to report for one final roll call.

 

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then ? on Dec. 7, 1941 ? an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

 

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

 

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178 others, that plunged the United States into World War II and set in motion the events that led to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

"I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we're witnessing history," said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. "We are seeing the passing of a generation."

 

Memories fresh after 65 years

The attack may have occurred 65 years ago, but survivors say they can still hear the explosions, smell the burning flesh, taste the sea water and hear the cries.

 

"The younger ones were crying, 'Mom! Mom! Mom!'" said Edward Chun, who witnessed the attack from the Ten-Ten dock, just a couple hundred yards away from Battleship Row.

 

Chun, 83, had just begun his workday as a civilian pipe fitter when he was thrust into assisting in everything from spraying water on the ships to aiding casualties.

 

"From the time the first bomb dropped and for the next 15 minutes, it was complete chaos," he said. "Nobody knew what was going on. Everybody was running around like a chicken with their head cut off."

 

Chun saw the Oklahoma and West Virginia torpedoed by Japanese aircraft. He heard the tapping of sailors trapped in the hulls of sunken ships. He escaped death when Ten-Ten was strafed, leaving behind dead and wounded.

 

"How I never got hit, I don't know," said Chun, who was later drafted and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. "I'll tell you a secret: When your number comes up, you're going to go. Well, every morning I get up, I change my number."

 

Radioman's story

Everett Hyland doesn't know how he stayed alive when almost everyone around him didn't. He was radioman aboard the Pennsylvania, which was in Dry Dock No. 1, and was helping transport ammunition to the anti-aircraft gun when a bomb exploded.

 

Badly burned, Hyland regained consciousness 18 days later, on Christmas night. During that time, his older brother visited.

 

"The only way he knew it was me was the tag on my toe," Hyland said. "He (later) told me we looked like roast turkeys lined up."

 

Today, scar tissue covers most of his arms and legs. "I got a quick facial out of it. I used to be a freckled-faced kid," he said. "I don't have any lips. They could fix faces, but they couldn't build any lips."

 

Dead before life really started

And he was lucky. Many of the dead were teenage sailors and Marines away from home for the first time. They died before they had an opportunity to get married, have children, build lives.

 

Four in five servicemen on the USS Arizona ? 1,177 in all ? did not survive the day. It was the greatest loss of life of any ship in U.S. naval history. They remain entombed in the battleship's sunken hull, which still seeps oil every few seconds, leaving a colorful sheen on the harbor water.

 

The survivors say they have more than horrific memories to offer. "Remember Pearl Harbor" is just the first half of the association's motto; the rest is "Keep America alert."

 

Martinez said many Pearl Harbor survivors were disheartened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "as if they had not done their job hard enough."

 

Once again, it seemed that America had been caught sleeping. Interest in Pearl Harbor and its aging survivors surged. The old soldiers are much in demand ? to sign autographs, walk in parades, speak to classrooms and pose for pictures. Visits to the USS Arizona Memorial are at record levels.

 

Not that everyone sees similarities between the two attacks. "There is no comparison," Hyland said. "That was terrorists killing a pile of civilians. Here, you had professional fighters versus professional fighters. Two different things."

 

Some forgive, others never have

There are those who are unable to forgive the Japanese, But others testify to the power of reconciliation.

 

"There are some guys that are going to die with hate in their heart. I don't have in me any hatred in my heart," said 87-year-old survivor Lee Soucy, of Plainview, Texas. "They were doing their job just like we were."

 

Hyland, who was almost killed in the attack, married a woman from Japan. They met at the 50th Pearl Harbor anniversary and wed the following year.

 

"I got over it a long time ago," he said.

 

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who dubbed Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II "the greatest generation," agreed to be keynote speaker for Thursday's ceremony. A moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. was to mark the time when the attack began.

 

Martinez, the USS Arizona historian, likened it to another reunion 68 years ago ? the final gathering of Civil War veterans in Gettysburg, Pa., when aging warriors in blue and gray shook hands and shared war stories. In 1938, as in 2006, the nation faced an uncertain future in a world gripped by conflict.

 

"The passing of that generation had its moment and we're going to have ours," he said.

 

?We all have our turn?

But some veterans don't believe, or refuse to accept, that this will be the last major gathering.

 

"They claimed the 60th was going to be the last one. Now they have the 65th. When they have the 70th, then they'll be claiming, 'This will be the last one,'" Hyland said. "They've been crying wolf too many times."

 

Hyland does accept the fact that their numbers are falling fast. "We all have our turn and our turn is getting closer," he said.

 

But until then, they are drawn to Pearl Harbor, and to each other. Military historian Douglas Smith, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., says they are proud of their service and eager to return "to their glory days," but most of all they revel in the bonds they formed long ago, when they were young.

 

The bond is so strong that some ask to have their ashes interred inside the Arizona, laid to rest with shipmates who were not so fortunate as to survive Dec. 7, 1941.

 

"They're coming home," Middlesworth said. "They feel they're coming home."

 

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An infamous day in American history, that's for sure.

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If any of you are ever fortunate enough to spend some time in Hawaii, you absolutely MUST set asside some time for the full Arizona Memorial exhibit, movie, and tour. It is an evocative and powerfull experience unlike anything. It is amazing to see the oil continuing to leak from the ship to this day [tears of the dead].

 

After living through 9/11, I can still only imagine what that experience must have been like. Pulling burned bodies from the ocean and trying to coordinate the treatment of thousands of injured soldiers and civilians must have been complete chaos. God Bless these people for their strength, dedication, and forgiveness.

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This country will suffer a great defeat when all of the World War II veterans die.

 

I understand the sentimental point you are making, but I'm not sure what you mean. It won't change anything.

 

I was referring to how we will lose their personal stories, the stories that have changed a country. Most of us had that grandfather that would tell us war stories. My grandfather was a MP in Germany during WWII, and he told me some fascinating stories that can only be told by a veteran.

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This country will suffer a great defeat when all of the World War II veterans die.

 

I understand the sentimental point you are making, but I'm not sure what you mean. It won't change anything.

 

I was referring to how we will lose their personal stories, the stories that have changed a country. Most of us had that grandfather that would tell us war stories. My grandfather was a MP in Germany during WWII, and he told me some fascinating stories that can only be told by a veteran.

 

Maybe it's just that I had 2 uncles who served in Vietnam and no family who served in WW2 (mom's side of the family is from Cuba, dad's family were all too young to serve) so I've always thought Vietnam was a more interesting war from a soldier and storyteller's point of view.

 

Tim O'Brien's accounts of Vietnam are vastly more interesting than anything I've ever read on WWII (with the exception of some of the stories about Patton. What a character).

 

But that could just be me.

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I will be sad when my grandfather goes. He is an 86 year old former B-17 pilot, who flew two tours of duty in Europe and North Africa. He was never shot down, and later went on to be a Eastern Airlines pilot, and was inducted into their HOF about 10 years back.

 

That's a nice resume

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I will be sad when my grandfather goes. He is an 86 year old former B-17 pilot, who flew two tours of duty in Europe and North Africa. He was never shot down, and later went on to be a Eastern Airlines pilot, and was inducted into their HOF about 10 years back.

 

That's a nice resume

He also was being scouted to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers (his hometown team) before the war. If their hadn't been a war, he would have likely made it into MLB.

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One of the most fateful days in the US' history. I was watching a special on one of the Discovery's, and I found out some cool stuff. Apparently the USS Ward fired the first shots of the day, spotting a Midget Sub from the Japanese and sinking it before it got to the harbor. Also, the myth about the radar messages being ignored is false - there was no way for the radar messages to get to the right people, the connections just weren't there.

 

FDR was right, everyone remembers December 7th. In infamy it lives.

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God Bless America's Greatest Generation. Watch over and protect all of those still living and see those passed resting peacefully in heaven.

 

 

My own grandfather was a Merchant Marine in WW2 serving 2 tours of duty.

 

My other grandfather, whom has passed away, served within the European theater upon the great bombers along with my great uncle whom gave his life in service over Germany.

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This country will suffer a great defeat when all of the World War II veterans die.

 

I understand the sentimental point you are making, but I'm not sure what you mean. It won't change anything.

 

I was referring to how we will lose their personal stories, the stories that have changed a country. Most of us had that grandfather that would tell us war stories. My grandfather was a MP in Germany during WWII, and he told me some fascinating stories that can only be told by a veteran.

 

Unfortunately, many WWII veterans won't talk about their memories of the war. My one living grandfather was an Army Air Force Pilot during the war, flying mostly bombing/strafing missions in Europe in both the P-38 Lightning (mostly) and P-51 Mustang. Despite a number of attempts, he has refused to talk about the war. I can understand why. You are lucky to have a grandfather who told you these stories firsthand.

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