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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    Default Pearl Harbor survivors meet for last time

    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 day 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."

    ___

    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."

    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."

    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."

    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 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.

    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."
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack. -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    This is a nice read. I couldn't imagine living through something like that.

    "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." - Japanese Admiral Yamamoto after the Pearl Harbor attack.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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  3. #3
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    Some of this is a repeat of the article above, but there is some new stuff as well.

    Pearl Harbor survivors gather, maybe for last time
    POSTED: 12:41 p.m. EST, December 7, 2006
    Story Highlights
    • 65th anniversary may be last for survivors who gather every five years
    • 2,390 Americans died in Japanese attack on December 7, 1941
    • Battleship Oklahoma to be last to get memorial

    PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) -- Nearly 500 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will honor those who died 65 years ago with a moment of silence and a wreath laying ceremony on the anniversary of the assault Thursday.

    Many veterans are treating the gathering as their last, uncertain they will still be alive, or healthy enough, to travel to Hawaii for the 70th anniversary.

    "Sixty-five years later, there's not too many of us left," said Don Stratton, a seaman 1st class aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. "In another five years I'll be 89. The good Lord willing, I might be able to make it. If so, I'll probably be here. I might not even be around. Who knows. Only the good Lord knows."

    Survivors, family members and others gathered for the commemoration will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute planes began bombing Pearl Harbor 65 years ago.

    A priest will give a Hawaiian blessing and Marines will perform a rifle salute.

    Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, whose book "The Greatest Generation" profiles those who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

    Stratton and other survivors will later board a boat to the white memorial straddling the sunken hull of the Arizona, where they will lay wreaths and lei in honor of the dead.

    The Arizona sank in less than nine minutes after a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb struck the battleship's deck and hit its ammunition magazine, igniting flames that engulfed the ship.

    More people died on the Arizona than any other ship as 1,177 servicemen, or about 80 percent of its crew, perished.

    Altogether, the surprise attack killed 2,390 Americans and injured 1,178.

    Twelve ships sank and nine vessels were heavily damaged. More than 320 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or heavily damaged by the time the invading planes were done sweeping over military bases from Wheeler Field to Kaneohe Naval Air Station.

    The 429 men killed aboard the USS Oklahoma will finally be honored with their own memorial when Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry helps break ground on a new facility on Ford Island close to where the battleship sank.

    The Oklahoma is the only ship among the nine that sank that doesn't have its own memorial.

    Officials hope to dedicate the Oklahoma memorial next year. About $620,000 of the $750,000 needed has been raised.

    Japanese veterans who participated in the attack as navigators and pilots will also pay their respects, offering flowers at the Arizona memorial for the Americans and Japanese who died.

    Japan lost 185 men, mostly on dive-bombers, fighters and midget submarines.

    Some Japanese veterans and American survivors have reconciled in the decades since.

    Japanese dive bomber pilot Zenji Abe has apologized to American survivors for the sudden attack, ashamed his government failed to deliver a declaration of war in time for the assault.

    The Japanese aviators who carried out the attack thought the declaration had been made by the time they started bombing, Abe has said.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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  4. #4
    Hang 'Em High
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    A Day that will live in Infamy ! !


    New Pictures from that Tragic Day in American History--











  5. #5
    Forum Frontman fudd's Avatar
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    And to those survivors and heroic man that died that day, thank you. Seeing that video brought tears to my eyes. I'm proud to be American.

  6. #6
    Forum Frontman Double Down's Avatar
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    My father was at Pearl Harbor and witnessed the attack first hand. There's a story in todays local paper about him that you might be interested to read. There's even a video clip of him telling the story of that morning and he points out on a map just how close he was to the attack. Good stuff.

    http://www.milforddailynews.com/news...g-Pearl-Harbor
    Last edited by Double Down; 12.07.08 at 10:46 AM.
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  7. #7
    Atomic Punk edwardv's Avatar
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    I think of this day every year.If my dad was alive he would be 89. They all went to enlist on Dec 8th. My dad was lucky he came back many were not as lucky. One of my fathers friends they never even found his body or dog tags,his nickname was Whitey. I remember every year. RIP

  8. #8
    Sinner's Swing!
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    WWII and Pearl Harbor has always been a fascinating topic for me because of my family history. My mother was Japanese. My dad is American. Within a few days of December 7th, 1941, my dad's older brother enlisted in the U.S. Army and my mom's dad was drafted into the Japanese army. Both were lost in the years that followed, fighting on opposing sides of the conflict.

 

 

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