Survivors Recall The Attack On Pearl Harbor
Friday, December 7th 2007, 5:23 pm
By: News On 6
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) -- A few dozen graying Pearl Harbor survivors observed a moment of silence on Friday in honor of their comrades who perished in the Japanese bombing of Oahu 66 years ago.
Wearing aloha shirts and orchid flower lei, the veterans stood on a pier overlooking the sunken hull of the USS Arizona and saluted the flag as a sailor sang "The Star Spangled Banner."
Survivors of each of the nine battleships bombed in the attack took turns setting wreaths before life preservers bearing the names of their ships.
"We're honoring the people who were killed. We're not here for ourselves, we're here for them," said George A. Smith, 83, who was on board the USS Oklahoma the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Overall, 2,388 Americans died in the attacks, including some 900 still entombed in the Arizona.
Hawaii Air National Guard helicopters flew over the harbor in "missing man" formation in honor of those lost. B-2 stealth bombers currently deployed to Guam from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri performed an additional flyby.
The crowd of about 2,000 honored the survivors with a standing ovation and several minutes of loud applause.
Smith, of Olympia, Wash., was standing watch on the Oklahoma when he saw planes darting through the sky over the harbor.
"One plane came in, circled, came right down to us. The guy opened the hatch to his plane and dropped his torpedo, waved at me and took off," Smith said. "The next thing I knew there was a big explosion."
He was able to jump overboard, just avoiding being squashed by the capsizing battleship, and then swam ashore. Smith was among 18 survivors of the Oklahoma who came to Hawaii to help dedicate a new memorial to the vessel after the main
ceremony. The Oklahoma lost 429 sailors and Marines, more than any battleship in the harbor except the Arizona.
The $1.2 million monument includes 429 white marble standards, each with the name of a fallen sailor or Marine, surrounded by black granite panels etched with a silhouette of the battleship and notable quotes from World War II-era figures that were selected by
some of the survivors.
The Oklahoma was hit with the first torpedo of the morning assault. It capsized after being struck by eight more, trapping 400 men in its overturned hull. About 30 of the trapped men were later rescued by Pearl Harbor Navy Yard workers who hammered their way through the ship's metal.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Tucker McHugh, who co-chaired the USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee, said he thinks the memorial will bring some sense of closure.
WEB EXTRA: More on the Pearl Harbor Memorial
WEB EXTRA: The Oklahoma Memorial