Hawaii memorial draws handful of Pearl Harbor survivors

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — The few centenarian survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack On Wednesday, some 2,500 members of the public gathered at the site of the Japanese bombing to pay tribute to those killed 81 years ago.

The attack began on December 12 at 7:55 a.m. as spectators sat quietly in mourning. 7th of 1941.

Sailors aboard the USS Daniel Inouye stand on the railing of the guided-missile destroyer while passing a grassy shoreline and the USS Arizona Memorial where ceremonies were held to honor survivors and victims of the attack. Ken Stevens, a 100-year-old survivor from the USS Whitney, returned the gift.

“Pearl Harbor’s enduring legacy will forever be shared on this site, as we must never forget those who came before us, so that we can forge a more just and peaceful path for generations to come,” said Tom Leatherman. The Pearl Director of Hong Kong National Memorial.

Some 2,400 soldiers were killed in the blast, which brought the United States into World War II. The battleship USS Arizona alone lost 1,177 sailors and Marines, almost half of the death toll. Most of the USS Arizona’s victims are still buried in the ship on the harbor floor.

Ira Schab, 102, plays tuba in the ship’s band aboard the USS Dobbin. He recalled seeing Japanese planes flying overhead and not knowing what to do.

“We have nowhere to go and hopefully they will miss us,” he said before the ceremony.

He delivered ammunition to the ship’s machine gunner, but was missed.

He has now attended the memorial service four times.

“I’m not going to miss it because I have a lot of friends who are still here and they’re all buried here. I’m coming back out of respect for them,” he said.

Shabu remained in the Navy during the war. After the war, he studied aerospace engineering and worked on the Apollo program. He now lives in Portland, Oregon.

He wants people to remember those who served that day.

“Remember what they came here for. Remember and honor those who stayed. They did a great job. Those who are still here, dead or alive,” he said.

Only six survivors were in attendance, fewer than the dozen or more who traveled to Hawaii from across the country in recent years for the annual memorial service.

Part of the decline is because the number of survivors decreases with age. The youngest active-duty soldier in December. 7 years old in 1941, about 17 years old, 98 years old today. Many of those still alive are at least 100 years old.

Herb Elfring, 100, of Jackson, Michigan, said he was delighted that many members of the public showed interest in the commemoration and attended the ceremony.

“A lot of people don’t even know where Pearl Harbor is or what happened that day,” he said.

Elflynn served in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment of the California National Guard. He remembers hearing bombs going off a few miles along the coast of Pearl Harbor, but he thinks it was part of a drill.

But then he saw a red ball on the fuselage of a Japanese Zero fighter jet when it hit the ground beside him near his barracks at Camp Malakole.

“It was a rude awakening,” he said. A soldier in his unit was wounded by a bullet, but no one was killed, he said.

Robert John Lee recalls being a 20-year-old civilian living with his parents on the Navy base where his father operated a water pumping station. The house is only about a mile from the port where the USS Arizona is moored.

The first explosion just before 8am woke him up, making him feel like the door was slamming shut in the wind. He got up and called for someone to close the door, only to see Japanese planes drop torpedoes from the sky outside the window.

He saw the hull of the USS Arizona turn a deep orange-red after being hit by aerial bombs.

“Within seconds, the explosion then sent a huge flame straight up the ship — but up to hundreds of feet,” Lee said in an interview after a boat tour of the port on Monday.

He still remembers the hiss of the fire.

The sailors jumped into the water to escape the burning ship and swam to a platform near Lee’s home. Many were covered in a thick layer of heavy oil coating the harbour. Lee and his mother use Fels-Naptha soap to help cleanse. Sailors who were able to board the small boat that carried them back to the ship.

“Very heroic, I think,” Lee said of them.

The next day, Lee enlisted in the Hawaii Territorial Guard and later in the U.S. Navy. After the war he worked for Pan Am for 30 years.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not have statistics on the number of survivors of Pearl Harbor. But only about 240,000 of the 16 million people who served in World War II were alive as of August, with about 230 dying each day, departmental data show.

According to rough estimates compiled by military historian J. Michael Wenger, there were approximately 87,000 military personnel on Oahu at the time of the attack.

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