`The whole world changed': Survivors mark 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) _ In a somber ceremony marked by words of resolve to win the war against terrorism, Pearl Harbor survivors sat in silence Friday on the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack that plunged the country into World War II.

``We gather to pay homage to the heroes of a war long gone, and as we come this time, we are at war again, our homeland attacked,'' said Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations.

The observances in Hawaii and across the country carried special meaning this year because of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed even more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor. Since many of the veterans are in their 80s, some said they believed this will be the last time they see Pearl Harbor, or each other.

A line of sailors in dress whites greeted each of 21 USS Arizona survivors with a white glove salute as they stepped aboard the white memorial over the sunken vessel.

About 100 survivors attended the ceremony. American and Japanese veterans also were attending another ceremony at the nearby National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

With a blast from the horn of a passing Navy destroyer and a missing-man flyover by Hawaii Air National Guard F-15s, the ceremonies began at the same minute the first Japanese bombs hit Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941, 7:55 a.m.

At the USS Arizona memorial, the sun was shining through 21 openings in the memorial, symbolizing a perpetual 21-gun salute. The survivors and other guests sat solemnly for a prayer and a tribute to those whose bodies still lie beneath.

Wreathes of tropical flowers for the five service branches and various veterans groups decorated the memorial.

In New Orleans, former President Bush, himself a Naval pilot in World War II, linked the surprise attack with the Sept. 11 terrorism in New York and Washington.

``Today we are in a different war. But I think duty, honor, country still prevails,'' the president's father said. ``They say today `Remember Pearl Harbor,' but I think, we as a nation, also remember September 11 and we have a good, strong commander in chief.''

Bush spoke at the National D-Day Museum's ribbon-cutting for a new wing honoring those who fought in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

Over the past week, Oahu was host to ceremonies and speeches honoring veterans and their fallen friends, and dozens of survivors attended, many wearing garrison caps with their ships' names.

``The whole world changed for us,'' said 84-year-old Douglas Phillips of Easton, Md., who was on the USS Ramsay during the attack.

Exchanging stories and memories of the lost servicemen have evoked complex feelings, they said. Many described a mixture of camaraderie, honor, gratitude and guilt.

The Sunday morning attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours and left 21 U.S. ships heavily damaged, 323 aircraft damaged or destroyed, 2,390 people dead and 1,178 other wounded.

The first wave of planes began bombing at 7:50 a.m. led by Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, who sent the coded ``tora, tora, tora,'' message to his pilots to inform them the attack had begun and the surprise was a success.

``Coming in at low altitude, we saw American sailors on the decks of the cruisers, looking up in shock and wondering what was going on,'' said torpedo plane pilot Taisuke Maruyama, exchanging war stories with American survivors on the eve of Friday's ceremonies.

Seven of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's nine battleships were moored along Ford Island, in perfect position for Japanese planes to sweep down and attack.

A 1,760-pound bomb ripped through the deck of the USS Arizona, sinking the ship with 1,177 crew aboard in less than nine minutes. To this day, oil seeps from the ship's sunken hull.

In New York, veterans gathered for a memorial on the battleship Intrepid.

``For 60 years the attack on Pearl Harbor has been central to our concept of national tragedy and our national conviction,'' said Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and president of the Intrepid Museum. ``Just a few blocks from here tragedy has given way to conviction once again.''

Hundreds of family members of New York police officers, firefighters and rescue workers lost in the Sept. 11 attack have visited the USS Arizona memorial this week as guests of the state and local businesses.

Laura Sheppard lost her 60-year-old father, New York firefighter Dennis Cross, in the attacks that thrust America into a war against terrorism.

``It truly is sacred ground,'' she said, ``just like the World Trade Center is now.''