Pearl Harbor survivors to attend Hawaii memorial

Pearl Harbor survivors to attend Hawaii memorial

A handful of centenarian Pearl Harbor survivors will assemble at the bombing site on Wednesday to honour the dead.

In recent years, dozens flocked to Hawaii for the yearly commemoration event.

Ageing survivors contribute to the drop. The youngest active-duty soldiers on Dec. 7, 1941, would be 17 today. Many are 100 or older.

The blast killed 2,400 servicemen and started World War II. Nearly half of the deaths occurred on the USS Arizona.

Robert John Lee remembers being a 20-year-old civilian on a naval post where his father controlled the water pumping station. The mansion located across the port from where the USS Arizona was docked.

He thought the initial blasts before 8 a.m. were a door slamming in the wind. He yelled for someone to shut the door and saw Japanese planes dumping torpedo bombs.

An aerial bomb turned the USS Arizona’s hull orange-red.

“Within seconds, that explosion sent gigantic tongues of flame straight up above the ship — hundreds of feet up,” Lee said Monday during a harbour tour.

He recalls the flames hissing.

Sailors jumped from flaming ships and swam to Lee’s house. The harbor’s thick oil blanketed many. Lee’s mother washed him with Fels-Naptha. Small boats returned sailors to their ships.

“Heroic,” remarked Lee.

Next day, Lee joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard, then the Navy. After WWII, he worked for Pan Am for 30 years.

The VA doesn’t track how many Pearl Harbor survivors are alive. Only 240,000 of the 16 million World War II veterans were alive as of August, and 230 die each day.

J. Michael Wenger estimated that 87,000 military soldiers were on Oahu during the attack.

At 7:55 a.m., the moment the attack began, there will be a moment of silence and a missing-man formation flyover.

Navy and park authorities will speak.

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