‘It’s our turn’ America, at war again, remembers Pearl Harbor

By Jay Mes Song, The Associated Press
Saturday December 08, 2001

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — With the nation in the throes of another war started by a sneak attack, Americans marked Friday’s 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor with appeals to their countrymen to fight terrorism with the same valor shown by the World War II generation. 

“As we come this time, we are at war again, our homeland attacked,” Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, said at a ceremony for Pearl Harbor survivors at the site of the sunken USS Arizona. “It’s our turn. It is time for us to rededicate our lives to the cause of freedom.” 

Ceremonies honoring the thousands killed on Dec. 7, 1941, stretched from Hawaii to New York, just a few miles from the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. 

Veterans paraded in New Orleans, paused for a playing of taps in St. Louis and recalled the grim details with high school students in Sun City, Fla. Japanese-Americans folded more than 2,000 paper cranes in San Francisco to symbolize solidarity with Muslim-Americans who may be persecuted because of the nation’s fledgling war on terrorism. 

President Bush called for resolve in the new war. 

“Just as we were 60 years ago in a time of war, this great nation will be patient, will be determined and we will be relentless in the pursuit of freedom,” Bush said in Norfolk, Va., from the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, which helped launch the first strikes against Afghanistan in October. 

The observances carried special meaning this year because of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed even more Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, than died at Pearl Harbor. The death toll at Pearl Harbor was 2,390, nearly all of them members of the military. The Sept. 11 toll stands at around 3,500. 

“The World Trade Center and the Pentagon are our modern-day Pearl Harbor,” said Capt. Leroy Gilbert, chaplain of the Coast Guard. 

Many of the Pearl Harbor veterans are in their 80s, and some of those who gathered in Hawaii said they believed this will be the last time they see the battle site or each other. 

“This is special because so many of our people are aging so fast,” said Ralph Lindenmeyer, 81, of San Diego, who was at nearby Ford Island during the attack that plunged the United States into World War II. “Tears come to my eyes when I think about all the fires, deaths and the destruction on a Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church.” 

At the memorial, a line of sailors in dress whites greeted each of 21 USS Arizona survivors with a white-glove salute. 

With a blast from the horn of a passing Navy destroyer and a missing-man flyover by F-15s, the ceremonies began at 7:55 a.m., the same minute the first Japanese bombs began falling. 

From wreaths for the five service branches and various veterans groups, sailors pulled flowers, and representatives tossed them into the water over the sunken Arizona, where more than 900 men are entombed. 

Repeatedly, Dec. 7 and Sept. 11 were tied together. About 600 New Yorkers — police, firefighters and their families — were in Honolulu for the anniversary as guests of the state and local businesses. 

Joseph Pfeifer, a battalion chief with the New York Fire Department, told those gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific that he was struck by the symbolism of New Yorkers tossing flowers into the water touched by oil still leaking from the USS Arizona. 

“The oil and the flowers came in contact,” he said. “Symbolically, the two events came together.” 

In Fredericksburg, Texas, former President Bush, a Navy pilot during World War II, told veterans that they serve as an inspiration for America as the nation leads a global war against terrorism. 

“Winning this latest war will not be easy, but here we reflect on the ordinary faces of men and women who stepped from anonymity to immortality,” he said. “Today, as 60 years ago, we are equal to the tasks before us.” 

At the USS Intrepid in New York City, Pearl Harbor veteran Julius Plaat, 82, said the attacks on the trade center and the Pentagon underscored the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association motto — “Remember Pearl Harbor, keep America alert.” 

“We were warned before Sept. 11,” he said. “The terrorists put a bomb in a vehicle and blew up that area down by the World Trade Center eight years ago. Was that enough warning?” 


On the Net: 

USS Arizona Memorial: http://www.nps.gov/usar