Pearl Harbor, once more into focus

On this date in 1941, America was attacked by the naval forces of Japan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress the following day:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 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 number of veterans who saw that day with their own eyes is dwindling, of course, and that makes it all the more important for those of us who wish to avoid repeating history’s mistakes to mark well this day. An interesting development is taking place in today’s remembrances, however. It turns out that one of Pearl’s veterans is making his 1st return to Pearl Harbor since the end of WWII.

Retired firefighter Ed Johann was a teenage apprentice seaman on Dec. 7, 1941, when he spotted Japanese planes coming in over Pearl Harbor.

He thought they were U.S. aircraft conducting drills until explosions and flames erupted from stricken ships in the harbor.

Then came screams of sailors; the stench of burning oil and flesh.

The 86-year-old is due to return Monday to Pearl Harbor for the first time since World War II to attend a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base that pulled America into the war.

“I really don’t know how I’m going to handle it,” said Johann, from his home in Oregon. “When I think about it, all I have is unpleasantness. I’m sure it’s not like that now.”

It’s not. But I’m sure the memories will come back plainly enough. Welcome back to Pearl Harbor, Mr. Johann. We salute your service and your return.