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Pearl Harbor Survivors Recall the Morning of the Attack

Pearl Harbor Survivors Recall the Morning of the Attack


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Aging survivors return to Pearl Harbor to recall ’41 attack

FILE – In this Dec. 7, 2018, file photo, Pearl Harbor survivors salute during the National Anthem at a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii marking the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack. Survivors and members of the public are expected to gather in Pearl Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, to remember those killed when Japanese planes bombed the Hawaii naval base 78 years ago and launched the U.S. into World War II. Organizers plan for about a dozen survivors of the attack to attend the annual ceremony, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A dozen frail survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor returned Saturday to honor those who perished when Japanese planes pierced a quiet sunny morning 78 years ago and rained bombs on battleships lined up below.

About 30 World War II veterans and some 2,000 members of the public joined the survivors, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s, to commemorate the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Herb Elfring, 97, of Jackson, Michigan, said being back at Pearl Harbor reminds him of all those who have lost their lives.

“It makes you think of all the servicemen who have passed ahead of me. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’m one of the last chosen few I guess.” He’s the only member of his old regiment still living.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. The unit’s job was to protect airfields but they weren’t expecting an attack that morning.

Elfring was standing at the edge of his barracks at Camp Malakole a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor, reading a bulletin board when Japanese Zero planes flew over. “I could hear it coming but didn’t pay attention to it until the strafing bullets were hitting the pavement about 15 feet (4.57 meters) away from me,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it’s difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people “not unlike us” were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today. “Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another atNaval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at “our beloved shipyard” earlier this week.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected,” Chadwick said.

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year’s ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn’t come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

“It’s always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,” Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he’s 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbor today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona’s sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial’s high number of visitors.

Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner’s interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl,” he said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Survivors remember Pearl Harbor from afar in 2020 amid pandemic

HONOLULU &mdash Navy sailor Mickey Ganitch was getting ready to play in a Pearl Harbor football game as the sun came up on Dec. 7, 1941. Instead, he spent the morning &mdash still wearing his football padding and brown team shirt &mdash scanning the sky as Japanese planes rained bombs on the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Seventy-nine years later, the coronavirus pandemic is preventing Ganitch and other survivors from attending an annual ceremony remembering those killed in the attack that launched the United States into World War II. The 101-year-old has attended most years since the mid-2000s but will have to observe the moment from California this year because of the health risks.

"That's the way it goes. You got to ride with the tide," Ganitch said in a telephone interview from his home in San Leandro, California.

Nearly eight decades ago, Ganitch's USS Pennsylvania football team was scheduled to face off against the USS Arizona team. As usual, they donned their uniforms aboard their ships because there was nowhere to change near the field. The pigskin showdown never happened.

The aerial assault began at 7:55 a.m., and Ganitch scrambled from the ship's living compartment to his battle station about 70 feet above the main deck. His job was to serve as a lookout and report "anything that was suspicious."

He saw a plane coming over the top of a nearby building. Sailors trained the ship's guns on the aircraft and shot it down.

"I was up there where I could see it," Ganitch said.

The Pennsylvania was in dry dock at the time, which protected it from the torpedoes that pummeled so many other vessels that day. It was one of the first to return fire on the attacking planes. Even so, the Pennsylvania lost 31 men. Ganitch said a 500-pound bomb missed him by just 45 feet.

He didn't have time to think and did what he had to do.

"You realize that we're in the war itself and that things had changed," he said.

The USS Arizona suffered a much worse fate, losing 1,177 Marines and sailors as it quickly sank after being pierced by two bombs. More than 900 men remain entombed on the ship that rests on the seafloor in the harbor.

Altogether, more than 2,300 U.S. troops died in the attack.

They're why Ganitch likes returning to Pearl Harbor for the annual remembrance ceremony on Monday.

"We're respecting them by being there, and showing up and honoring them. 'Cause they're really the heroes," Ganitch said.

But the health risks to the aging survivors of the attack and other World War II veterans mean none of them will gather at Pearl Harbor this year.

The National Park Service and Navy, which jointly host the event, also have closed the ceremony to the public to limit its size. The gathering, featuring a moment of silence, a flyover in missing man formation and a speech by the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will be livestreamed instead.

Ganitch served the remainder of the war on the Pennsylvania, helping in the U.S. recapture of the Alaskan islands of Attu and Kiska. The battleship also bombarded Japanese positions to help with the amphibious assaults of Pacific islands like Kwajalein, Saipan and Guam.

Ganitch remained in the Navy for more than 20 years. Afterward, he briefly worked in a bowling alley before becoming the shop foreman at a fishnet manufacturing plant.

Along the way, he had four children, 13 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. He and his wife, now 90, have been married for 57 years.

Ganitch still shows glimpses of his days as a running guard protecting his quarterback: He recently crouched down to demonstrate his football stance for visiting journalists.

Kathleen Farley, California chairwoman of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, said many survivors are already talking about going to Hawaii in 2021 for the 80th anniversary if it's safe by then.

Farley, whose father, now deceased, served on the USS California and spent three days after the attack picking up bodies, has been attending for two decades.

"I know deep down in my heart that one of these days, we're not going to have any survivors left," she said. "I honor them while I still have them and I can thank them in person."


Survivor of Pearl Harbor recalls attack

Retired New York City police officer Bill Merz recalled the sound of machine-gun fire, the whine of Japanese fighter planes, the black smoke of ships aflame rising over Pearl Harbor.

"The first sergeant came in and said, 'We're at war,' " said Merz, of Davie, about that Sunday morning in Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941.

Sharing a lunch with Merz on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, middle-schoolers John Pace and Aarron Wheeler paused over plates of pasta and meatballs. "Sounds scary," said Pace, 12.

"Scary, but courageous too," said Wheeler, 13, as Merz described how he and fellow soldiers scrambled for safety and their weapons.

Today, on the 67th anniversary of the surprise attack that drew the United States into World War II, Merz and a handful of other members of the Gold Coast Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will take part at 10 a.m. ceremonies at the Coast Guard station in Dania Beach.

"Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America alert," association President Jerry Mintz said Saturday, repeating the motto of the survivors group, now down to fewer than 10 members in South Florida. Mintz spoke Saturday at the luncheon, sponsored by District 15 Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and auxiliaries in the Fort Lauderdale Firefighter's Benevolent Hall.

"You can't just rely on intelligence reports," Mintz, of Plantation, told the audience of 150 people, including about 40 students from St. Jerome Catholic School. "You have to be alert at all times."

Eighth-grade teacher Wendy Lockard said her visit to Pearl Harbor last summer has helped her to bring home to her students the history and the lessons of the attack, in which nearly 2,400 Americans were killed.

But so, too, did the memories carried by the veterans. Anthony Mozzott, 11, looked through a scrapbook brought to the lunch by ex-Army Aircorpsman Edward Bloch, 86, a retired television engineer who now lives in Bal Harbour.

"I saw pictures of him and his friends," said Mozzott. "They were bombed and shot at. It sounds scary and very confusing."

At ceremonies today, survivors, including Mintz James Lobozzo, of Pembroke Pines and John Guarino, of Boca Raton, are expected to hear the watchword of alert sounded by Cary Krause, commander of the USS Cole, the Navy warship attacked in October 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, by al-Qaida terrorists. The Cole is docked at Port Everglades and sails Monday morning after a four-day visit.

Mike Clary can be reached at [email protected] or at 305-810-5007.

The 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, will be marked today with a 10 a.m. ceremony at the Fort Lauderdale Coast Guard Station, 7000 N. Ocean Drive, Dania Beach. Access is through John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.

Present will be several members of the Gold Coast Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Speakers will include Cmdr. Cary Krause, commander of the USS Cole, the Navy warship attacked by al-Qaida terrorists in October 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen. The ceremony is open to the public.


Aging survivors return to Pearl Harbor to recall ‘41 attack

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - A dozen frail survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor returned Saturday to honour those who perished when Japanese planes pierced a quiet sunny morning 78 years ago and rained bombs on battleships lined up below.

About 30 World War II veterans and some 2,000 members of the public joined the survivors, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s, to commemorate the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Herb Elfring, 97, of Jackson, Michigan, said being back at Pearl Harbor reminds him of all those who have lost their lives.

“It makes you think of all the servicemen who have passed ahead of me. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’m one of the last chosen few I guess.” He’s the only member of his old regiment still living.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. The unit’s job was to protect airfields but they weren’t expecting an attack that morning.

Elfring was standing at the edge of his barracks at Camp Malakole a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor, reading a bulletin board when Japanese Zero planes flew over. “I could hear it coming but didn’t pay attention to it until the strafing bullets were hitting the pavement about 15 feet (4.57 metres) away from me,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it’s difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people “not unlike us” were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today. “Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at “our beloved shipyard” earlier this week.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected,” Chadwick said.

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbour. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year’s ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn’t come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

“It’s always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honours that they deserve,” Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he’s 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbour today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona’s sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial’s high number of visitors.

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Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner’s interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl,“ he said.


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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A dozen frail survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor returned Saturday to honor those who perished when Japanese planes pierced a quiet sunny morning 78 years ago and rained bombs on battleships lined up below.

About 30 World War II veterans and some 2,000 members of the public joined the survivors, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s, to commemorate the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Herb Elfring, 97, of Jackson, Michigan, said being back at Pearl Harbor reminds him of all those who have lost their lives.

“It makes you think of all the servicemen who have passed ahead of me. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’m one of the last chosen few I guess.” He’s the only member of his old regiment still living.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. The unit’s job was to protect airfields but they weren’t expecting an attack that morning.

Elfring was standing at the edge of his barracks at Camp Malakole a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor, reading a bulletin board when Japanese Zero planes flew over. “I could hear it coming but didn’t pay attention to it until the strafing bullets were hitting the pavement about 15 feet (4.57 meters) away from me,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it’s difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people “not unlike us” were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today. “Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another atNaval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at “our beloved shipyard” earlier this week.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected,” Chadwick said.

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year’s ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn’t come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

“It’s always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,” Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he’s 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbor today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona’s sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial’s high number of visitors.

Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner’s interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl,” he said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Aging survivors return to Pearl Harbor to recall 󈧭 attack

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — A dozen frail survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor returned Saturday to honor those who perished when Japanese planes pierced a quiet sunny morning 78 years ago and rained bombs on battleships lined up below.

About 30 World War II veterans and some 2,000 members of the public joined the survivors, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s, to commemorate the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Herb Elfring, 97, of Jackson, Michigan, said being back at Pearl Harbor reminds him of all those who have lost their lives.

“It makes you think of all the servicemen who have passed ahead of me. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’m one of the last chosen few I guess.” He’s the only member of his old regiment still living.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. The unit’s job was to protect airfields but they weren’t expecting an attack that morning.

Elfring was standing at the edge of his barracks at Camp Malakole a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor, reading a bulletin board when Japanese Zero planes flew over. “I could hear it coming but didn’t pay attention to it until the strafing bullets were hitting the pavement about 15 feet (4.57 meters) away from me,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it’s difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people “not unlike us” were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today. “Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at “our beloved shipyard” earlier this week.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected,” Chadwick said.

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year’s ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn’t come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

“It’s always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,” Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he’s 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbor today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona’s sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial’s high number of visitors.

Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner’s interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl,” he said.


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Holly Rotondi, executive director of the nonprofit friends of the memorial, said that group sustains the memory of those who sacrificed for the war effort holding commemorative events with living veterans and family members, hosting prominent World War II historians and holding an annual teachers conference that shares World War II history and advocates for local projects marking the events and honoring veterans.

While lounging around reading the papers for news of home, sailors heard explosions and Young’s brother Herbert came below deck and was running along, yelling his older brother’s name.

“I asked him what was the matter, and he said that there were some strange planes buzzing around,” Young wrote in an account of the event.

Young rushed topside and saw red dots on the wings of the planes hitting ships and installations at Pearl Harbor.

“I went down the gangway yelling as loud as I could, ‘The Japs are attacking,’” Young wrote.

Young and his crewmates manned the guns.

“We had an hour of nearly steady firing,” he wrote. “The noise was enough to burst the eardrums.”

They managed to prevent one squadron from hitting their ship. The Worden went out to sea and later dropped depth charges, as commanders feared Japanese submarine attacks.

Those intense hours would be followed by years at sea and work in Pacific battles that included Midway and Guadalcanal. Young would transfer to another destroy in the Mediterranean Sea and participate in the Allied invasion of Sicily before leaving the Navy.

And then, like most veterans of his generation, he moved on with his life and started a family. Young became a Presbyterian minister and later served as chaplain of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association from 1984 to 2004, his son, Greg Young said.

In a typical year the memorial hosts an average of six events for major events from the war. But due to the 75th anniversary, the organization will have 32 commemorations in 2019 and another 15 in 2020 scheduled specific to the 75th anniversary of the final year of the war.

The group also archives video interviews with World War II veterans. Its annual teachers conference hosts media specialists, librarians, curriculum coordinators and academic coaches.

That conference exposes participants to WWII historical resources and tools to educate future generations of students about the “everyday men and women whose character, courage, creativity, determination and innovation not only led to the winning of the war, but also reshaped America,” according to their website.

Organizers then advocate for participants to encourage students to fulfill a community service obligation within their communities in the year after the conference.

Greg Young and the rest of the family were aware of their father’s Navy service. The younger went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then served six years in the Army. His son, Ian Young, served in the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 2006, the trio visited Pearl Harbor, Greg and Ian Young for the first time, for the 65th anniversary of the attack.

Even years later, the visit strikes a chord with Greg Young.

“It was so moving,” he said. “You think of all those young guys who didn’t have a life. I think about my own dad who certainly could have lost his life. The sacrifices that these guys made for us.”

For the elder Young, staying connected to that event and those he shared the experience with was an important part of his life.

Though, as the years have passed, fewer of those connections remain, as both survivors of the attack and members of the “Greatest Generation,” die off.

Rotondi noted that according to the most recently released federal data fewer than 400,000 World War II veterans remain from the 16 million who served.

While veterans remain a core of the commemoration mission, the organization also involves family members of deceased veterans and those who served on the home front.

“One of our major themes is to promote and recognize the everyday men and women who served at home and abroad,” Rotondi said.

For Young, his main concern with participating in the commemorations and sharing his experience is to try and improve understanding for future generations to improve good will.

“…as we go through history we learn lessons of things we should do and shouldn’t do and we should hand down to our children and grandchildren,” Young said.

About Todd South

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.


Aging survivors return to Pearl Harbor to recall '41 attack

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2018, file photo, Pearl Harbor survivors salute during the National Anthem at a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii marking the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack. Survivors and members of the public are expected to gather in Pearl Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, to remember those killed when Japanese planes bombed the Hawaii naval base 78 years ago and launched the U.S. into World War II. Organizers plan for about a dozen survivors of the attack to attend the annual ceremony, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

PEARL HARBOR, HI – A dozen frail survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor returned Saturday to honor those who perished when Japanese planes pierced a quiet sunny morning 78 years ago and rained bombs on battleships lined up below.

About 30 World War II veterans and some 2,000 members of the public joined the survivors, the youngest of whom are now in their late 90s, to commemorate the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Herb Elfring, 97, of Jackson, Michigan, said being back at Pearl Harbor reminds him of all those who have lost their lives.

“It makes you think of all the servicemen who have passed ahead of me. As a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’m one of the last chosen few I guess.” He’s the only member of his old regiment still living.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. The unit’s job was to protect airfields but they weren’t expecting an attack that morning.

Elfring was standing at the edge of his barracks at Camp Malakole a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor, reading a bulletin board when Japanese Zero planes flew over. “I could hear it coming but didn’t pay attention to it until the strafing bullets were hitting the pavement about 15 feet (4.57 meters) away from me,” he said.

A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it’s difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people “not unlike us” were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today. “Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at “our beloved shipyard” earlier this week.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected,” Chadwick said.

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year’s ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn’t come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

“It’s always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,” Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he’s 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbor today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona’s sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial’s high number of visitors.

Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner's interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl," he said.

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A moment of silence was held at 7:55 a.m., the same time the assault began. U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jets flying overhead in missing man formation broke the quiet.

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris, currently the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delivered remarks.

Harris said it's difficult to imagine the events of 78 years ago when people "not unlike us" were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise.

“It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss,” Harris said.

He said the World War II generation played a pivotal role in underwriting the freedoms the U.S. enjoys today.

“Every December 7 we remember the past actions of our veterans on Oahu because they inspire us today and because they shape our tomorrows,” he said.

The ceremony comes on the heels of two deadly shootings at Navy bases this week, one at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and another at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the military community has received an outpouring of love and support from Hawaii after the shooting at "our beloved shipyard" earlier this week.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims and everyone affected," Chadwick said.

/>A sailor plays during a ceremony to mark the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Saturday, Dec. 7, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Caleb Jones/AP)

A Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman said security was beefed up as usual for the annual event.

The 1941 aerial assault killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona, a battleship moored in the harbor. The vessel sank within nine minutes of being hit, taking most of its crew down with it.

Lou Conter, 98, was the only survivor from the USS Arizona to make it to this year's ceremony. Two other survivors are still living. Conter was sick last year and couldn't come. He said he likes to attend to remember those who lost their lives.

"It's always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve," Conter said.

Conter said his doctor has vowed to keep him well until he's 100 so he can return for the 80th anniversary.

The USS Arizona still rests in the harbor today and is a grave for more than 900 men killed in the attack. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the white memorial structure built above the ship.

An internment ceremony is scheduled to be held at sunset on the memorial for one of the Arizona’s sailors who survived the attack, Lauren Bruner. He died earlier this year at age 98.

Bruner asked that an urn with his ashes be placed inside the Arizona's sunken hull upon his death. His ashes will join the remains of 44 shipmates who managed to live through the attack but wanted to be laid to rest in the ship. Bruner explained before he died that he preferred being interred in the Arizona so he could join his buddies and because of the memorial's high number of visitors.

Bruner is expected to be the last Arizona crew member to be interred on the ship. The three Arizona survivors still living plan to be laid to rest with their families.

Conter, the USS Arizona survivor from Grass Valley, California, said he will attend Bruner's interment ceremony later Saturday. He said Bruner was a good friend who joined the Navy and the USS Arizona a year ahead of Conter.

“Lauren was a good sailor, a good man. I’m glad he made it through Pearl,” he said.

Pearl Harbor vet’s interment to be last on sunken Arizona

This weekend, divers will place Bruner’s ashes inside the battleship’s wreckage, which sits in Pearl Harbor where it sank during the attack 78 years ago that thrust the United States into World War II.



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