Pearl Harbor survivors remember losses on anniversary of attack

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- Tears ran down the wrinkled cheeks of 81-year-old Wayne Pease on Tuesday as he recalled the destruction he witnessed on Dec. 7, 1941.

"I had a bird's-eye view to watch five battleships go down," said Pease, who was an 18-year-old seaman aboard the USS Sicard destroyer when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pease, of Fort Myers, Fla., was among the dwindling number of survivors who returned to the site of their most haunting memories to honor fallen comrades on the 63rd anniversary of the assault.

Ceremonies were held on shore and on the gleaming white monument straddling the submerged USS Arizona.

The anniversary took on added meaning with U.S. troops still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, saluted the nation's resilience, then and now.

"It was a day when weaker souls would have surrendered," Inouye said of the attack that thrust the United States into World War II. "It was a day that gave real meaning to our name, the United States of America."

He added: "Today, the obstructions and challenges are many -- the ugly voices of hatred and the unconscionable actions of terrorism around us intending to make us afraid."

Inouye, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, spoke to more than 1,000 people at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center.

Just 17 and living in Honolulu at the time, he later lost his right arm serving in Europe as a member of the Army's distinguished 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up almost entirely of Japanese-Americans.

A moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. marked the time bombs began to fall over the harbor. Hawaii Air National Guard jets roared overhead in a missing-man formation.

The somber ceremony, under overcast skies with an ocean breeze, concluded with a 21-gun salute and a Navy bugler playing "Taps."

About two dozen Pearl Harbor survivors attended the ceremony, a number that declines every year. They were given a standing ovation and later signed autographs and posed for pictures.

"It's really neat to see them out here and see people that were in the war and experienced the whole thing," said Dave Casados, of Red Bluff, Calif. "It's a privilege to see them."

Other ceremonies were held around the country. In Little Rock, Ark., retired U.S. Air Corps Col. David Moffat recalled standing guard at an airfield when the attack began. "There was a state of confusion. Our weapons were locked up," he said. "One officer ran to his plane in pajamas."

Zenji Abe, 88, a Japanese dive-bomber pilot who participated in the attack, also paid tribute in Hawaii to the American lives that were lost. He met Pearl Harbor survivor Richard Fiske during the 50th anniversary ceremonies in 1991 and the two became friends.

The two men made a pact -- Abe would send Fiske money each year to lay two roses at the memorial each month, one for him and one for Fiske. Fiske promised to continue the tribute for as long as he lived. He died April 2.

Wearing white gloves and a dark suit, Abe laid down the roses and bowed to the marble wall listing the names of those killed aboard the Arizona and prayed.

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, 2,390 people were killed and 1,178 wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona memorial site.

Pease said he is finally free of resentment toward the Japanese.

"It's hard to get over it," he said. "But this year just before I came, I bought a Toyota. That tells you something."

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