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Survivors Gather to Mark Pearl Harbor Attack
Military.com  |  December 07, 2006
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Nearly 500 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will honor those who died 65 years ago with a moment of silence and a wreath laying ceremony on the anniversary of the assault Thursday.

Many veterans are treating the gathering as their last, uncertain they will still be alive, or healthy enough, to travel to Hawaii for the 70th anniversary.

"Sixty-five years later, there's not too many of us left," said Don Stratton, a seaman 1st class aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941. "In another five years I'll be 89. The good Lord willing, I might be able to make it. If so, I'll probably be here. I might not even be around. Who knows. Only the good Lord knows."

Survivors, family members and others gathered for the commemoration will observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. (1255 GMT), the minute planes began bombing Pearl Harbor 65 years ago.

A priest will give a Hawaiian blessing and Marines will perform a rifle salute.

Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, whose book "The Greatest Generation" profiles those who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

Stratton and other survivors will later board a boat to the white memorial straddling the sunken hull of the Arizona, where they will lay wreaths and lei in honor of the dead.

The Arizona sank in less than nine minutes after a 1,760 pound (792-kilogram) armor-piercing bomb struck the battleship's deck and hit its ammunition magazine, igniting flames that engulfed the ship.

More people died on the Arizona than any other ship as 1,177 servicemen, or about 80 percent of its crew, perished.

Altogether, the surprise attack killed 2,390 Americans and injured 1,178.

Twelve ships sank and nine vessels were heavily damaged. Over 320 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or heavily damaged by the time the invading planes were done sweeping over military bases from Wheeler Field to Kaneohe Naval Air Station.

The 429 men killed aboard the USS Oklahoma will finally be honored with their own memorial when Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry helps break ground on a new facility on Ford Island close to where the battleship sank.

The Oklahoma is the only ship among the nine that sank that doesn't have its own memorial.

Officials hope to dedicate the Oklahoma memorial next year. About $620,000 (euro467,078.5) of the $750,000 (euro565,014.31) needed has been raised.

Japanese veterans who participated in the attack as navigators and pilots will also pay their respects, offering flowers at the Arizona memorial for the American and Japanese who died.

Japan lost 185 men, mostly on dive-bombers, fighters and midget submarines.

Some Japanese veterans and American survivors have reconciled in the decades since.

Japanese dive bomber pilot Zenji Abe has apologized to American survivors for the sudden attack, ashamed his government failed to deliver a declaration of war in time for the assault.

The Japanese aviators who carried out the attack thought the declaration had already been made by the time they started bombing, Abe has said.

Click here for a 1941 newsreel about the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Click here for a general overview of the attack.

Click here for a first-hand account of the attack.

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