Pearl Har­bor mem­o­ries

A few sur­vivors re­call that day, salute those who didn’t make it

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Au­drey Mcavoy, The As­so­ci­ated Press

HONOLULU — Sur­vivors gath­ered Thurs­day at the site of the Ja­panese at­tack on Pearl Har­bor 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 raid that plunged the U.S. into World War II.

About 20 sur­vivors at­tended the event at a grassy spot over­look­ing the har­bor and the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial. They were joined by about 2,000 Navy 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-old, who lives near Ly­tle, Texas, was an 18-year-old fire­man first class when a tor­pedo hit the port side of the Utah. He said he was alive be­cause he hap­pened to have been on the ship’s star­board side.

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

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

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

Then a fighter plane with Ja­pan’s World War II Ris­ing Sun in­signia strafed the Camp Makaole base where El­fring, 19 at the time, was serv­ing. The bul­lets missed him by about 15 feet.

“When I looked up and saw the red ball on the fuse­lage, I knew it wasn’t our plane,” he said. “I knew it was a Ja­panese plane.”

The Jack­son, Mich., man is now 95 and said re­turn­ing to Pearl Har­bor for the an­niver­sary of the at­tack made him feel spe­cial be­cause he’s one of the few re­main­ing sur­vivors. “I have one of those caps that says ‘Pearl Har­bor Sur­vivor’ on it,” he said. “It’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple come up and thank me for my ser­vice.”

El­fring was in the mil­i­tary for the en­tire war, serv­ing in Fiji, the Solomon Is­lands and the Philip­pines.

When it ended, he went to the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan on the GI Bill, worked for a gas and elec­tric com­pany and raised a fam­ily.

The cer­e­mony be­gan with a mo­ment of si­lence at 7:55 a.m. — the same time the at­tack be­gan. Four F-22 fighter jets broke the si­lence, with one plane peel­ing off from the group to sym­bol­ize ser­vice­men still miss­ing.

“The he­roes with us to­day en­sured Pearl Har­bor would not be the end of the story,” said Adm. Scott Swift, the Pa­cific Fleet com­man­der. “In­stead of re­treat­ing from the fight, Amer­ica’s Pa­cific Fleet dug in its heels.

“Along the way, they forged a cul­tural her­itage of re­silience that sailors con­tinue to draw upon to­day.”

The Navy and Na­tional Park Ser­vice host the cer­e­mony each year.

Usu­ally, a Pa­cific Fleet ves­sel with sailors man­ning the rails passes the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial dur­ing the event. This year, no ship par­tic­i­pated be­cause of op­er­a­tional com­mit­ments, said Bill Doughty, a spokesman for Navy Re­gion Hawaii.

More than 2,300 ser­vice­men were killed in the as­sault by Ja­panese air­planes. Nearly half were on the USS Ari­zona, which ex­ploded and sank af­ter it was hit by two bombs.

Stephanie Keith/getty Im­ages

Ar­mando “Chick” Galella grew emo­tional Thurs­day at a wreath-lay­ing aboard the In­trepid Sea, Air and Space Mu­seum in New York. Galella, 96, was the only Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor at the 76th an­niver­sary event.

Craig T. Kojima/the Star-ad­ver­tiser

Don Strat­ton (left) and Lau­ren Bruner shook hands at the Ari­zona Me­mo­rial in Honolulu on Thurs­day dur­ing a 76th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Pearl Har­bor at­tack.

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