Sixty-five years ago this morning, the attack on Pearl Harbor began. By the end of the day, the US Pacific fleet would be badly wounded, over 2000 Americans would be dead, and an entire nation would be knocked to the ground in shock. The architect of that attack, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, knew full well what would happen next.
We got back to our feet, turned a burning gaze toward the Japanese empire, and set ourselves to winning the war. We would sacrifice much and lose many more men. But we would never quit and we would prevail.
This remembrance of Pearl Harbor actually started for me a few days ago as I noted the passing of one of the courageous heroes of Pearl Harbor, retired General Kenneth Taylor. It set a melancholy mood that was only intensified this morning as I read this report on FoxNews.com and realized that today’s observance was different than all those that came before.
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 date 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, California, but then — on Dec. 7, 1941 — an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.
As I wrote earlier this week, I wondered how many of these men were still with us. Unspoken, I also wondered how many more anniversary observances we would have where there were still survivors in attendance. Looks like that’s been answered for me, at least so far as the main association is concerned.
On this last remembrance with all the remaining survivors present (or as many of them as possible) I raise my grateful salute to those warriors both fallen and present. I have never forgotten your valor and I pledge to keep it in my memory. Today I will tell the story for the first time to my daughter and I will do my best to instill in her the memory of what you have done so that this date, while infamous, will continue to live.
(Picture courtesy of the National Park Service’s USS Arizona Memorial Web site.)