Remembering Pearl Harbor

December 07, 2005

It has been 64 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Even the GIs who lied about their ages to enlist during World War II are 80 or older now, which means the number of eyewitnesses to that sneak attack is diminishing year by year.

But the memory of that day cannot be dimmed, because the attack abruptly brought the U.S. into World War II by crippling the Navy's battleship force and killing 2,403 American personnel in the process.

According to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., the dead included 68 civilians and there were 1,178 military and civilians wounded.

But a numercial recitation of the carnage doesn't tell the whole story. Vivid memories of the survivors do.

In August, The Herald-Mail's Richard Belisle interviewed Lester Jay Stone, a 94-year-old retired Navy captain who was present during the attack.


Stationed in Pearl City, north of the Naval base, he heard a plane go over, looked up and saw it was Japanese.

Three blocks from Battleship Row during the attack, he described the explosion that sunk the USS Arizona, still at the bottom of the harbor.

In December 2004, The Herald-Mail's Andy Schotz interviewed Maury Werth, a sailor on the USS Raleigh, the first ship torpedoed during the attack.

It was about an hour before a scheduled 9 a.m. church service, but it wasn't bells and hymns the sailors heard, but explosions, the whine of planes overhead and the sound of anti-aircraft fire.

In all, at least 35 Washington County residents were present during the attack, the newspaper learned during research for the 50th anniversary of the attack in 1991.

Today's Americans need to remember this somber anniversary because it was the beginning of the worst war the world had ever seen, a war that ended only after explosion of a device that changed warfare forever.

It was also the spark that prompted many Americans to enlist and fight for their country's survival. Some, including Werth and Stone, returned to civilian life. Others died in far-off lands, never to grow old and have the families most take for granted.

On this day, we remember their sacrifice and salute them.

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