Veterans will unveil Pearl Harbor memorial in Smyrna

A Pearl Harbor monument, organized by the Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets, will be unveiled and dedicated Friday at Lake Como in Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

SMYRNA — A new monument, dedicated to those who perished on Dec. 7, 1941, will be unveiled Friday in Smyrna.

Terry Baker, a champion of this effort, says there are two inscriptions – along with an image of the attack on battleship row at Pearl Harbor – that will have prominence.

At the top, it will include President Roosevelt’s words, “A date which will live in infamy.”

Across the bottom, there will be the motto of the Vietnam Veterans of America – “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

Mr. Baker is a life member of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club.

When World War II-era veterans could no longer carry on the annual Pearl Harbor remembrance at Lake Como, the motorcycle club stepped up.

“The Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets had been doing a Pearl Harbor program there ever since the old World War II guys stopped, probably six or eight years ago,” said Mr. Baker. “We would just have a small get-together and place a wreath there.

“And then somebody came up with the idea, ‘Why don’t we build a permanent memorial here for Pearl Harbor?’

“We took on this project and ran with it.”

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The group talked about plans for the monument last year at the Pearl Harbor observance at Lake Como. At the very spot where wreaths were placed in the water last year, the new monument and a World War II-era ship’s anchor now stand.

The service this year will start at noon at the park, located on the south end of Main Street near U.S. 13.

Mr. Baker said the monument will be unveiled at 12:53 p.m., the same time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, pushing the United States into war.

The monument, he said, pays tribute to those who died, at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in the Pacific that day, and those who served.

“It was just a lifetime of knowing veterans and knowing how important Pearl Harbor was,” he said. “In my day and age growing up, Pearl Harbor was in your face.

“Throughout life, you might meet an old guy and find out he was at Pearl Harbor. It was about understanding that defining moment. And what a great nation we are that we would rebound like that and do what we had to do.

“I think of the guys there like Doris Miller.”

Mr. Baker recalled the story of “Dorie” Miller – a messman aboard the USS West Virginia who had been serving eggs to sailors just before the attack began.

He had no training, but dashed to a gun turret to fire at the enemy.

“It’s just that spirit of Americans,” said Mr. Baker.

Messman Miller, who was awarded the Navy Cross, was aboard the USS Liscome Bay when it sank on Nov. 24, 1943. The ship was hit by a Japanese torpedo.

Miller was 24 years old at the time of his death.

“People don’t know these guys,” said Mr. Baker. “These are the guys that this memorial will hopefully bring to light, at least to one kid or one family that walks by and says ‘my grandfather was there’ or ‘this is beautiful.’”

 

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Mr. Baker said the monument came together thanks to the contributions of the motorcycle club and its members, other service organizations, the town of Smyrna, state legislators and local contractors – including Eagle Erectors, who took care of weighing and dropping the anchor at the waterside display.

Mr. Baker will emcee the dedication on Friday.

Robert Clark II, president of Wesley College, will be the keynote speaker. The retired U.S. Navy captain spent 32 years in the submarine force. Among his leadership roles was commanding the nuclear-powered submarine USS Connecticut.

Mr. Baker said there have been some surprising twists along the way in putting together the monument and dedication program.

When he requested a friend deliver the benediction, he learned the minister had an uncle who was at Pearl Harbor. Another man he asked to attend Friday’s event had a father on the USS West Virginia, so he and a grandson will be at Lake Como to lay a wreath.

Just in the past week, a veteran happened by the monument area and asked what was up. The man came back two hours later with a donation of sod to go around it.

“Sometimes things just happen – kind of like a God thing,” said Mr. Baker. “It’s like the monument has reached out to people.”

The story of the anchor, itself, is heavy.

Mr. Baker said he asked a retired Navy chief boatswain if he had any idea where they could get an anchor. Days later, they were in Virginia to pick up one that had been forged in 1942.

It was supposed to go on the USS Halsey Powell, which was built in 1943 and joined the Pacific fleet the following year. The anchor never left Virginia.

“I drive down there and here’s this 6,200-pound piece of steel that is about 5 ½ feet wide by almost 8 feet tall,” said Mr. Baker. “Luckily, we had a flatbed with us and we loaded her on.”

His F-250 pickup truck was exhausted after the trip.

“I actually had to put new shocks on my truck when I got back because it wore everything out just hauling that trailer,” he said. “It’s Ford tough, but it wasn’t that Ford tough to be lugging that three-ton trailer all the way back.

“There were heads turning everywhere. People were like what the heck has he got on there.

“The neat part was that the anchor itself was cast in 1942. You could get an anchor from any time, but we were able to acquire an anchor that was actually cast right after Pearl Harbor.”

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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