Sunday, February 5, 2023

Pearl Harbor anniversary will draw a handful of survivors

A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the site of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to remember those killed 81 years ago.

That’s fewer than in recent years, when a dozen or more people traveled to Hawaii from across the country to pay their respects at the annual commemoration event.

Part of the decline reflects a decline in the number of survivors as people age. The youngest active duty military personnel would have been about 17 years old on December 7, 1941, making them 98 years old today. Many of them still alive are at least 100 years old.

About 2,400 soldiers died in the bombing, which launched the United States into World War II. The USS Arizona alone lost 1,177 sailors and marines, nearly half the death toll.

Robert John Lee recalls being a 20-year-old civilian living in his parents’ house on the naval base where his father ran a water pumping station. The house was just 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) across the harbor from where the USS Arizona was moored in Battleship Row.

File - In This Photo Provided By The Us Navy, The Destroyer Uss Shaw Explodes After Being Hit By Bombs During The Japanese Attack On Pearl Harbor In Hawaii On December 7, 1941.

FILE – In this photo provided by the US Navy, the destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

The first explosions before 8 a.m. woke him up, causing him to feel a door closing in midair. He got up to shout for someone to lock the door, only to see Japanese planes out the window dropping torpedoes from the sky.

He noticed that the USS Arizona’s hull had turned a deep orange-red after being hit by an aerial bomb.

“Within seconds, that explosion went with huge tongues of fire directly over the ship, but hundreds of feet up,” Lee said in an interview Monday after a boat tour of the harbor.

He still remembers the sound of the fire.

To escape their burning ships, the sailors jumped overboard and swam to land near Lee’s house. Many were covered in thick, heavy oil clogging the harbor. Lee and his mother used Fels-Naphtha soap to wash them. Sailors who were able to board small boats that carried them back to their ships.

“Very gallant, I thought,” Lee said of him.

Lee joined the Hawaii Land Guard the next day, and then the US Navy. He worked for Pan American World Airways for 30 years after the war.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs does not have statistics on how many Pearl Harbor survivors there are. But the department’s figures show that of the 16 million who served in World War II, only 240,000 were still alive in August and about 230 die each day.

Military historian J. According to a rough estimate compiled by Michael Wenger, there were approximately 87,000 troops on Oahu at the time of the attack.

The Navy and National Park Service-sponsored ceremony will have a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the attack began, and a formation flyover of the missing men.

Navy and Park Service officials were required to comment.

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Nation World News Desk
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