Pearl Har­bour sur­vivors gather

Pay trib­ute to 2,000 com­rades lost 76 years ago

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - AU­DREY MCAVOY

HONOLULU — Sur­vivors gath­ered Thurs­day at the site of the Ja­panese at­tack on Pearl Har­bour to re­mem­ber fel­low ser­vice­men killed in the early morn­ing raid 76 years ago, pay­ing homage to the thou­sands who died with a solemn cer­e­mony mark­ing the sur­prise bomb­ing that plunged the U.S. into the Sec­ond World War.

About 20 sur­vivors at­tended the event over­look­ing har­bour and the USS Ari­zona Memo­rial. They were joined by about 2,000 sailors, of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Gilbert Meyer, who lived through the Dec. 7, 1941 bomb­ing, said he re­turned to pay his re­spects to his ship­mates from the USS Utah — and say a prayer for them.

The 94-year who lives near Ly­tle, Texas, was an 18-year-old fire­fighter first class when a tor­pedo hit the port side of the Utah.

He said he’s still alive be­cause he hap­pened to be on the ship’s star­board side.

“I think about my ship­mates and how they were killed. It re­minds me that we’re lucky we got off and we’ve made a good coun­try for them,” Meyer said.

Meyer later served in the bat­tles at Attu, Kiska, Iwo Jima and Ok­i­nawa. He wit­nessed Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in 1945 in Tokyo Bay.

Herbert El­fring re­mem­bered hear­ing bombs ex­plode and ini­tially thought the ex­plo­sions were U.S. train­ing ex­er­cises.

Then a fighter plane with Ja­pan’s Sec­ond World War “Ris­ing Sun” in­signia strafed the Camp Makaole base where El­fring, 19 at the time, was serv­ing. The bul­lets missed him by about five me­tres.

The Jack­son, Mich., man is now 95 years old. He said re­turn­ing to Pearl Har­bour for the an­niver­sary of the at­tack makes him feel spe­cial be­cause he’s one of the few re­main­ing sur­vivors.

Au­thor Steve Twomey was sched­uled to de­liver the cer­e­mony’s key­note ad­dress. Twomey wrote the book “Count­down to Pearl Har­bor,” which ex­am­ines the 12 days lead­ing up to the Dec. 7, 1941 at­tack.

The cer­e­mony be­gan with a moment of silence in hon­our of those who lost their lives. The moment was timed for 7:55 a.m. — the same time the at­tack be­gan.

Four Hawaii Air Na­tional Guard F-22 fighter jets broke the silence, with one plane peel­ing off from the group to sym­bol­ize ser­vice­men still miss­ing.

The Navy and Na­tional Park Ser­vice host the cer­e­mony each year at the same time the at­tack be­gan. Usu­ally, a Navy ves­sel with sailors man­ning the rails passes by the USS Ari­zona Memo­rial dur­ing the event. This year, a ship did not par­tic­i­pate be­cause of op­er­a­tional com­mit­ments, said Bill Doughty, a spokesper­son for Navy Re­gion Hawaii.

More than 2,300 ser­vice­men were killed in the as­sault car­ried out by Ja­panese air­planes. Nearly half were on the USS Ari­zona, which ex­ploded and sank af­ter it was hit by two bombs. Most of the Ari­zona’s fallen are en­tombed in the bat­tle­ship, which lies at the bot­tom of the har­bour.

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, sur­vivors and dig­ni­taries were ex­pected to ride a boat to the Ari­zona memo­rial and present wreaths in re­mem­brance of those killed.

Ja­pan and the U.S. be­came close al­lies af­ter the war.

STEPHANIE KEITH, GETTY IMAGES

Armando (Chick) Galella gets emo­tional af­ter a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony aboard the In­trepid Sea, Air and Space Mu­seum the on Thurs­day in New York City. Ja­panese forces at­tacked Pearl Har­bour 76 years ago.

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