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Pearl Harbor Survivors Gather to Commemorate WWII Attack

Maj. Gen. Charles A. Flynn steadies Robert Hardaway during a ceremony Sunday afternoon in Honolulu commemorating the role of soldiers during the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Hardaway was then a captain and surgeon and operated on the wou
Maj. Gen. Charles A. Flynn steadies Robert Hardaway during a ceremony Sunday afternoon in Honolulu commemorating the role of soldiers during the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Hardaway was then a captain and surgeon and operated on the wou

FT. DERUSSY MILITARY RESERVATION, Hawaii — Capt. Robert Hardaway had been toiling away at triage and surgery during the first 24 hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Army surgeon was on his last steam as he lay down to get some rest.

Then a nurse burst into the room and said President Franklin D. Roosevelt was about to give a speech — one that would ultimately galvanize the nation and Hardaway, who on Sunday sat in the front row of a ceremony honoring, in particular, Army and Army Air Corps soldiers who defended against the attack.

Maj. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, told the audience that he'd spoken with Hardaway earlier about that speech.

"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," Roosevelt had said in a somber voice.

Hardaway said those words revived his spirit and energy.

"All I needed to hear was my commander-in-chief and see that American flag and I knew what my duty was," Flynn quoted Hardaway as saying.

Few living military survivors of the 1941 attacks remain alive, virtually all now in their 90s.

During Sunday afternoon, four of the remaining nine survivors of the sunken USS Arizona met at the ship's memorial for what might be their final toast to their departed shipmates. The oldest was 97, the youngest, 92.

The massive explosion on the Arizona took a staggering death toll of 1,177 that morning, accounting for a large portion of the roughly 2,500 who would die in the entire attack. A thousand were wounded. Eighteen American ships were damaged or destroyed, along with about 300 airplanes.

The Navy held a ceremony at Pearl Harbor Visitors Center on Sunday morning, observing a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., marking the opening salvo of the attack.

Oahu was believed to be "an impenetrable fortress" then, a belief shaken by the attack, but "the strategic importance of Hawaii and its military forces was clear then as it is today," Flynn said.

The brunt of the attack was on the Navy's ships, but the Japanese planes also went about crippling the aircraft of the Army Air Corps at Wheeler Air Base.

Thirty-three soldiers were killed in action there, with another 75 wounded.

And while most planes were crippled, 12 pilots assigned to the 15th Pursuit Group at Wheeler got airborne and commenced a "furious dogfight," Flynn said.

"While Dec. 7, 1941, shook the Navy — and specifically the Pacific Fleet — to its core, it rattled the Army and the nation as well," Flynn said. "Today, we're here to commemorate the U.S. Army's actions Dec. 7, 1941, and in the weeks, months and years following that day that would live in infamy.

"These soldiers provided a wide range of support to their sister services, buying them the time and space for the Navy to recover from the devastation of Pearl Harbor and moving the necessary logistics in the name of basic needs to the Hawaiian people.

"We stand here today in this beautiful setting because of their courage and commitment to duty."

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