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Pearl Harbor survivors meet for last time



Pearl Harbor survivors meet for last time
By JAYMES SONG Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

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."
(December 8, 1941)
To the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
Audio link to his speech:

Please take time out of your day to remember those who gave their lives for this country.


Please take a moment also to think about the 120,000 American citizens who were interred in "relocation camps" in the United States by a fear crazed government as a result of that attack.

120,000 American citizens who had their rights tossed aside so that idiots could feel safe.

We see it happening in America again today. Halliburton has won a swell contract to build such "relocation centers" in the USA again.

We don't need concentration camps.

We ought to be better than that.

If we give away our rights at the first sign of danger, we'll never, ever get them back. The government does not like to give back power, once it is given the chance to weild it.

This is not only a problem here. Canada did the exact same thing in WWII, imprisoning 23,000 of their citizens in such camps.

America does not need to torture any more than we need to execute children.

That we do both is to our great shame.

We are better than that. But we won't be for long unless the apathetic, rarely voting, rather watch OJ's white Bronco public actually realizes they have a voice, that they have power, if only they would dare to speak up and use it.

Time Lord

A woman in my church is a Pearl Harbor survivor. She was an Army nurse, stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7. She told me about it one day. She was out with some other nurses when they saw all these planes flying overhead. A mechanic ran by them and told them to take cover- telling them "Those planes arent' ours!".

They hurried back to the base hospital, and spent the next couple of days treating the wounded. The worked for hours on end. She said many who were hurt asked to be patched up so they could go back to fight.

She's in her late 80s. She had to stop going to reunions a few years back due to her health. But she has clear, lucid memories of that day. She will never forget.

And neither should we.

Sgt Schultz

The one time I went TDY to Hickam Air base you can still see the bullet holes on some of the buildings. It makes quite an impact on you to see them. But it's the trip to the Arizona that really hits you.