Sur­vivors gather at Pearl Har­bor for re­mem­brance

Mathrusse, who trav­eled to Hawaii for the event from Moun­tain View, Calif., re­mem­bers car­ry­ing in­jured peo­ple to the mess hall and set­ting them on mat­tresses grabbed from the bar­racks above.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - National - AU­DREY MCAVOY

PEARL HAR­BOR, Hawaii — About 20 sur­vivors gath­ered at Pearl Har­bor on Fri­day to pay trib­ute to the thou­sands of men lost in the Ja­panese at­tack 77 years ago.

They joined dig­ni­taries, ac­tive duty troops and mem­bers of the pub­lic in observing a mo­ment of si­lence at 7:55 a.m. Hawai­ian time, the time the bomb­ing be­gan on Dec. 7, 1941.

John Mathrusse was an 18-year-old sea­man sec­ond class walk­ing out of the chow hall on Ford Is­land to see a friend on the USS West Vir­ginia when the bomb­ing be­gan.

“The guys were get­ting hurt, bombs and shells go­ing off in the wa­ter. I helped the ones that couldn’t swim, who were too badly in­jured or what­ever and helped them to shore,” said Mathrusse, now 95.

Mathrusse, who trav­eled to Hawaii for the event from Moun­tain View, Calif., re­mem­bers car­ry­ing in­jured peo­ple to the mess hall and set­ting them on mat­tresses grabbed from the bar­racks above.

Robert Fer­nan­dez, who was as­signed to the USS Cur­tiss, re­calls be­ing pet­ri­fied.

“I was kind of ner­vous too. I was scared. I was 17. I went to go see the world. What did I get into? A war,” he said.

The 94-year-old from Stock­ton, Calif., re­turns for the an­nual re­mem­brance each year be­cause he’s now alone af­ter his wife died four years ago.

Adm. Phil Davidson, com­man­der of the U.S. Indo-Pa­cific Com­mand, said the na­tion can never for­get the heavy price paid on that day. He cited 21 ves­sels dam­aged or sunk, 170 planes de­stroyed, more than 2,400 peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing ser­vice­men and civil­ians.

“De­spite these losses, it did not break the Amer­i­can spirit. In fact, it charged it,” he said in a key­note ad­dress.

The sur­vivors are de­clin­ing in num­ber as they push well into their 90s, and are in­creas­ingly treated as celebri­ties. They say peo­ple ask for their au­to­graphs and re­quest to take pho­tos with them.

“I am given a lot of at­ten­tion and honor. I shake hands con­tin­u­ously,” said Tom Berg, who lives in Port Townsend, Wash. Berg, who is 96, served on the USS Ten­nessee.

This year, no sur­vivors from the USS Ari­zona at­tended the cer­e­mony as none of the men were able to make the trip to Hawaii.

The Ari­zona sank af­ter two bombs hit the ship, trig­ger­ing tremen­dous ex­plo­sions. The Ari­zona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines, the great­est num­ber of ca­su­al­ties from any ship. Most re­main en­tombed in the sunken hull of the bat­tle­ship at the bot­tom of the har­bor.

Dozens of those killed in the at­tack have been re­cently iden­ti­fied and re­buried in ceme­ter­ies across the coun­try af­ter the mil­i­tary launched a new ef­fort to an­a­lyze bones and DNA of hun­dreds long clas­si­fied as “un­knowns.”

In 2015, 388 sets of re­mains were ex­humed from the USS Ok­la­homa and buried in a na­tional ceme­tery in Honolulu. The Ok­la­homa had the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of dead af­ter the Ari­zona at 429, though only 35 were iden­ti­fied in the im­me­di­ate years af­ter the at­tack.

The De­fense POW/MIA Ac­count­ing Agency has iden­ti­fied 168 sailors and Marines from the Ok­la­homa since the ex­huma­tions three years ago. It has said it ex­pects to iden­tify about 80 per­cent of the 388 by 2020.

Sev­eral fam­i­lies were to re­bury their newly iden­ti­fied loved ones on Fri­day, in­clud­ing Navy Sea­man 1st Class Wil­liam Brue­se­witz of Ap­ple­ton, Wis.

His re­mains were buried at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery near Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

AP/AU­DREY McAVOY

The USS Michael Mur­phy passes by the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial in Pearl Har­bor dur­ing a cer­e­mony Fri­day mark­ing the 77th an­niver­sary of the Ja­panese at­tack in 1941.

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