Still, they don't forget that day at Pearl Harbor 71 years ago
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — More than 2,000 people at Pearl Harbor and many more around the country took time on Friday to mark the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack that killed thousands and plunged the United States into World War II.
The USS Michael Murphy, a ship recently christened after a Penn State alumnus who was killed in Afghanistan, sounded its ship's whistle Friday to start a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact time the bombs rained down in 1941.
Crew members lined the edge of the Navy guided-missile destroyer in the harbor where the USS Arizona and USS Utah, battleships that sank in the attack, still lie. Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighter jets flew overhead in a special “missing man” formation to break the silence.
“Let us remember that this is where it all began. Let us remember that the arc of history was bent in this place 71 years ago today and a generation of young men and women reached deep and rose up to lead our nation to victory,” Rhea Suh, Interior Department assistant secretary, told the crowd. “Let us remember and be forever grateful for all of their sacrifices.”
About 30 survivors, many using walkers and canes, attended the commemoration.
Edwin Schuler, of San Jose, Calif., said he remembered going up to the bridge of his ship, the USS Phoenix, to read a book on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in 1941 when he saw planes dropping bombs.
“I thought: ‘Whoa, they're using big practice bombs.' I didn't know,” said Schuler, 91.
Schuler said he's returned for the annual ceremony about 30 times because it's important to spread the message of remembering Pearl Harbor.
Ewalt Shatz, 89, said returning to Pearl Harbor “keeps the spirit going, the remembering of what can happen.”
Shatz, who now lives in Riverside, Calif., was on board the USS Patterson that morning when the alarm sounded. His more experienced shipmates were down below putting a boiler back together so Shatz found himself manning a 50-caliber machine gun for the first time. The Navy credited him with shooting a Japanese plane.
“That was some good shooting,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Cecil Haney, who recounted Shatz' valor in the keynote address.
President Obama marked the day by issuing a presidential proclamation, calling for flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and asking all Americans to observe the day of remembrance.
“Today, we pay solemn tribute to America's sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu,” Obama said in a statement.