On this 70th anniversary of the date “which will live in infamy,” there will be a moment of silence in Hawaii at 7:55 a.m. (12:55 a.m. ET) to remember the 2,390 Americans who died when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
It was 7:55 a.m. local time when the attack began — a strike that would push America into World War II.
The number of survivors, of course, is declining with time. As Hawaii’s Star-Advertiser writes today:
“There were 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who served in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association … now down to about 2,700 members, has decided to end the organization on Dec. 31 as a corporation, but to keep social events going as long as it can.”
Some of those who survived the attack have chosen over the years to rejoin their shipmates after death, The Associated Press reports. Tuesday, Navy divers took a small urn containing the ashes of 90-year-old Lee Soucy down to a porthole of the USS Utah — the ship he was on when the attack began. Today, the AP says, “the cremated remains of Vernon Olsen, who served aboard the USS Arizona, will be interred on his ship during a sunset ceremony. … The ashes of three other survivors are being scattered in the harbor.”
The survivors who are still with us continue to tell their stories of that day. This morning’s Muskegon Chronicle reports about Buck Beadle, now 91. “Not even time, seven long decades, can erase the horror,” of what he saw, the Chronicle says. Beadle was aboard the USS Hull, a destroyer. Within minutes after the start of the attack, the newspaper writes:
“The sea was on fire, the oil from the damaged ships in flames everywhere. The sky was dark with smoke. The sound of bombs, machine gun fire and the screams of dying and injured men is seared into Beadle’s memory.
” ‘Yeh,’ he says.”
Beadle wouldn’t get home for another four years as the Hull saw action across the South Pacific.
CNN has the tale of Bob Kerr, now 90. An Army company clerk, when he saw some of his fellow soldiers being killed he realized that “someone’s going to ask me who’s dead, who’s well, who isn’t. I went into the orderly room, and I opened a safe to get a complete roster of our unit.” CNN adds that Kerr:
“Remembers not being scared as he went about this task. Concerned, but not scared. He was simply focused on doing his duty. Kerr soon realized how much of a risk he was taking when a first sergeant came by and asked what he was doing. He duly explained his efforts to get the roster.
“He said, ‘Good thing, good thinking.’ It’s the last thing he said because a strafer (aircraft gunfire) got him just about then – killed him at the moment. Right in front of my eyes while I’m looking at him.”
There are, of course, many more things being written and reported today about the attack and the anniversary. MSNBC’s Photo Blog, for example, has a fascinating look at “Pearl Harbor from above, 1941-2011.” Reuters has a video report that includes the memories of some survivors.
And as for that famous line about a date “which will live in infamy,” the National Archives looks at how President Franklin D. Roosevelt drafted his address to Congress, which he would deliver the next day. In the first draft, FDR wrote that the date would “live in world history.”
Later today, NPR’s Tell Me More is scheduled to talk with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who was there that infamous day. He would go on to serve in the U.S. Army and be awarded the Medal of Honor. Inouye lost his right arm in combat. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts the show.