75 years ago today Americans held their breath as the United States was plunged in to World War II.
On Dec 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Japanese naval and air forces in an unforeseen bomb raid at 12:55 p.m. More than 2,400 military men and women were killed during the attack.
Wednesday, in a ceremony that began at 12:55, military servicemen and local survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack honored their fallen comrades during the 75th Annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony, hosted at the Navy’s Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
Pearl Harbor veteran Bill Muehleib, 94, gave opening remarks. Muehleib was an Army corporal who had just finished an overnight shift as part of a ground defense squadron when the first explosions hit Pearl Harbor.
“It was an experience that certainly took us by surprise. The people who were there served with honor and distinction,” he said. “It gives me great pleasure to announce that out of the 84,168 uniformed personnel on the island at the time of the attack, our current count shows that we have approximately 2,300 members still alive.”
Cadet SCPO Clara Enninful’s knowledge of Pearl Harbor may only be that in which she reads in history books or sees in documentaries, but she recognizes the sacrifices that so many made.
“Our sailors were propelled into being true super heroes. Ready or not, they fought with the strength and intensity of some of the greats,” she said. “Today, we gather here not to mourn those who fell, but to remember and honor their lives, and the good that has come from their selflessness.”
Enninful, whose parents both have 18 years of Naval experience, is a senior member of Navy JROTC at Princess Anne High School. She hopes to attend the United States Naval Academy after graduation and become an emergency room physician.
Admiral Phil Davidson served as guest speaker at the memorial event. Davidson is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College who assumed command of the U.S. Naval Forces Command and Naval Forces U.S. Northern Command in 2014.
“The events on Dec. 7th are well-documented. That day, a nation’s resolve was submitted, and the history of the world was forever altered,” Davidson said in his opening address.
“There is a line in our creed that every sailor in the United States Navy knows. It says, ‘I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those that have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.’ As we pause today to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, then, and today, the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the gateway to the western sea frontier, those words of the sailor’s creed take on special meaning,” Davidson continued.
The event concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony and a 21-gun salute at the WWII memorial on base. Erected in 1990 by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Tidewater Chapter 2, the monument is carved with the 184 names of known local survivors of the Pearl Harbor Attack.
Mel Pritchard, a 21-year veteran of the Air Force, attends the event each year to honor his friend, Frank Chebetar, a Pearl Harbor veteran and one of the 184 names on the memorial.
Pritchard said the two met about 15 years ago through Knights of Columbus.
“He died at 93 years old. At the time, he was an older friend and I was a youngster. I come to this event to pay honors to him and the people he served with,” he said.
Pritchard, who had the opportunity to pay respects at Pearl Harbor in person, talked about what it means to remember the attack each year.
“[My family and I] went to Hawaii and it was an unbelievable trip. It was a real honor to go there and say a prayer,” he said. “You get kind of choked up because you know what folks went through. You know the story.”
Pohl may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org