Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 08: Pearl Harbor survivors and other World War II veterans yesterday gathered on the same Pearl Harbour to mark 75 years since the surprise Japanese attack on the island of Oahu that pushed the United States into war.
Thousands of people attended the ceremony today on Kilo pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, including the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor, Ray Chavez, 104.
The veterans received a heroes' welcome, with applause, cheers and standing ovations. Before and after the ceremony, attendees crowded around the veterans, to shake their hands, take pictures with them and thank them for their service.
At the start of the ceremony, USS Halsey sounded its whistle to signify when the Japanese aerial assault began that fateful day. When the whistle stopped, the crowd observed a moment of silence.
the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Harry Harris said, "On that fateful Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the men ran to their battle stations and to the sound of the guns as they moved boldly to begin the defense of our country".
"It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss," Harris said. "In less than two hours, there were over 2,400 killed, 1,200 wounded and a majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet taken out of action."
The attack, he said, was "catastrophic by any standard." The scars remain to this day, he said at the ceremony, which was held on a pier overlooking where the USS Arizona sank in the surprise attack, killing 1,177 men aboard.
The battleships USS Arizona and USS Utah are still entombed in the waters, Harris explained. The USS Oklahoma Memorial is nearby, and there are bullet holes in the buildings on Ford Island and Hickam Field.
"As we look upon the majestic USS Arizona Memorial behind me, take comfort in knowing that our departed World War II veterans continue to stand vigilant watch as guardian angels of our nation," he said.
But from the devastation, the survivors and others who served in World War II responded to the attack with conspicuous valor, Harris said. They fought a tough war and emerged victorious.