Hawaii memorial held to mark anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

Monday, December 8, 2003

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- With a giant American flag waving at half-staff under a cloudy sky, an aging and dwindling group of Pearl Harbor survivors gathered Sunday to commemorate the Japanese attack that launched the United States into World War II 62 years ago.

The generations that have passed since Dec. 7, 1941, have softened the pain but not eroded memories, the survivors said in a service at the USS Arizona Memorial.

"I'm getting too old to have feelings," said Leo Fitzek, 91, who was a radio operator on Ford Island, next to the harbor's Battleship Row, at the time of the attack.

About 250 people gathered on the memorial for the ceremony which paused in silence at 7:55 a.m. -- 62 years to the minute after the attack started.

Representatives of veterans and military groups dropped anthuriums and plumerias onto the water in an open well in the memorial, as the 18-foot flag waved.

"The actions of those enemies may forever live in infamy," said Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. "But the valor of our citizens lives more boldly in our history."

The Arizona, which sank at its mooring along Battleship Row after a bomb ripped it open, remains a tomb for most of the 1,177 crewmen who were killed. The USS Arizona Memorial spans the hull of the battleship that sank in just nine minutes during the attack.

"You always remember," said William Cope, 90, who was a B-17 pilot at Hickam Air Force Base during the attack.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 people were killed and about 1,178 were wounded.

On the other side of the harbor, hundreds gathered at another service, which included a speech by Ernest Borgnine, the Oscar-winning actor whose role in "From Here to Eternity" won him the invitation to the service that was titled "Hollywood Remembers Pearl Harbor."

In separate ceremonies Sunday, two veterans who were aboard ships in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack were being buried at sea.

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