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Never forget Pearl Harbor

December 07, 2006

Historical accounts of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 65 years ago today tell the story of one nation grasping for the resources to continue its conquest of China, the naval strategy of the Imperial Fleet and the diplomatic maneuvers that failed to prevent war.

But what we remember - and what all Americans should remember forever - is the individual acts of bravery that took place during and after the sneak attack.

Some of those accounts have been collected by the National Park Service as part of the USS Arizona Memorial.

In one account, Joe Morgan, the honorary chaplain of the memorial, was there during the attack and quickly sought shelter.

But then from his hiding place he saw some of his shipmates, standing out on the tarmac, trying to bring down the planes overhead with handguns. Morgan said his shame overcame his fear then and he grabbed a machine gun and began to fire back.

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In another account, Richard Fiske, a Marine bugler, was serving aboard the USS West Virginia when it was sunk. A day later, they heard tapping from inside the hull. Divers descended 14 times to try to find the source of the noise but were unsuccessful.

When the ship was put in drydock, the bodies were in the last watertight compartment that was opened.

And then there was Bill Speer, an officer aboard the USS Honolulu. For the NPS account, he described the men who were injured getting out of their hospital beds a day after the attack and returning to their posts.

Over the years, The Herald-Mail's reporters have interviewed local survivors of that day's attack, including people such as Maury Werth, then a sailor of the USS Raleigh, the first ship torpedoed during the attack and Lester Jay Stone, a Navy captain who witnessed the explosion that sunk the USS Arizona.

Elsewhere in today's edition, there will be other such stories. In all, at least 35 Washington County residents were present during the attack.

Their stories need to remain in the memories of Americans today because they were the people whose bravery and determination made it possible to recover from the treacherous attack and eventually, to bring World War II to an end.

To those who remain, we thank you. To those who have "gone to glory" as the old-time preachers used to say, we will not forget you.

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