After 78 years, the attack on Pearl Harbor still stirs emotions

SMYRNA — Korean War veteran William Richardson’s reason to attend was simple:
“It’s important to remember the 1,177 men killed that day at Pearl Harbor,” the U.S. Army veteran said at Saturday afternoon’s commemoration ceremony aside Lake Como.

A heavy mix of veterans among a crowd of 100 filled in around a 6,000-pound anchor (from a 1942 U.S. Navy destroyer) and stone marker, honoring their fellow countrymen lost in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Terry Baker, chaplain of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets Motor Cycle Club, officiated the roughly 50-minute gathering that concluded with red carnations tossed into the water at 12:48 p.m. (adjusting for the Hawaiian time zone when the attacks began at 7:48 a.m.) and the playing of “Taps.”

The haunting sounds of Japanese bombs exploding, sirens wailing and frantic radio reports blaring through a speaker brought another somber touch to the proceedings.

After a much attended service last year to dedicate the memorial at Lake Como, Mr. Baker initially planned for a low-key event in 2019.

“All of a sudden the phones started ringing,” he said. “We realized that this place meant something to people here.”
In a nation currently vexed by division and turmoil, Mr. Baker said Pearl Harbor was a great unifier 78 years ago.

“Americans of all faiths, colors and creeds (came together) because of an attack we will never forget,” he said.
Vietnam Veterans Legacy Motorcycle Club Chapter A President Mark Eschelweck read aloud facts he’d gathered regarding Pearl Harbor including, among others:

• The base had warning of incoming aircraft before the first bomb dropped, but inexperienced radar operators mistakenly believed U.S. B-17 bombers were approaching.
• The first prisoner of war was captured that day.
• Five million gallons of oil spilled during the attack, and a plume of 15 football fields seems to be stable today.

• The top admiral in the Japanese Navy was against the operation, and eventually court martialed and imprisoned.
• Congress voted 388-1 to declare war and lone dissenter U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana reasoned that as a women she couldn’t go to war so she couldn’t send anyone else.
• President Roosevelt was originally scripted to say “world history” in his speech before Congress, then scratched it for “infamy.”

• An Elvis Pressley concert raised $68,000 of the $500,000 needed to build a memorial over the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in 1962.
Mr. Baker thanked the Town of Smyrna for it’s support in creating the tribute to Pearl, which he described as “One of the prettiest memorials I’ve seen, especially at night.”

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