Survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack over 100 years old gathered at the Japanese bombing site on Wednesday to remember those who died 81 years ago.
This is less than in recent years, when a dozen people from all over the country traveled to Hawaii to pay their respects at the annual memorial service.
Part of the decline reflects the declining number of survivors as the population ages. The youngest active duty soldier on December 7, 1941 was about 17 years old, and today he is 98 years old. Many of those still alive are at least 100.
102-year-old Ira Schab was on board the USS Dobbin as the tuba player for the ship’s band. He remembers seeing Japanese planes flying overhead and wondering what he should do.
“We had nowhere to go and hoped they would miss us,” he said before the ceremony began.
He supplied ammunition to machine gunners on ships that did not come under fire.
He has attended the memorial service four times so far.
“I have a lot of friends who are buried here and still here, so I don’t miss it. I’m back in their honor,” he said.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. President Franklin Roosevelt called it an “infamous date.”
Shab remained in the Navy throughout the war. After the war he studied aerospace engineering and was involved in the Apollo program. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
He wants people to remember those who served that day.
“Remember what they are here for. Remember and honor those left behind. They did a great job. Dead or alive, they are still here,” he said. said.
About 2,400 military personnel were killed in the bombing raids that plunged the United States into World War II. USS Arizona alone lost her 1,177 sailors and Marines, almost half the death toll.
Robert John Lee recalls being a 20-year-old civilian living in his parents’ house on a naval base where his father ran a water pumping station. The house was about a mile (1.6 km) across the harbor from where the battleship Arizona was moored.
The first blast, before 8am, woke me up thinking the door had been slammed shut by the wind. He stood up and yelled at someone to close the door, and out of the window he saw Japanese planes dropping torpedoes from the sky.
He saw the USS Arizona’s hull turn a deep orange-red after an airstrike hit.
“Within seconds, the explosion came out with huge tongues of flame right above the ship itself, but hundreds of feet above,” Lee said in an interview Monday after a boat tour of the harbor. I was.
He still remembers the hiss of fire.
The sailors jumped into the water to escape the burning ship and swam to a landing near Lee’s house. Many were covered in thick heavy oil covering the harbor. Lee and his mother used Fersnapsa soap to wash. Those sailors who were able to board the small boats returned to their ships.
“I thought they were very heroic,” Lee said of them.
Lee joined the Hawaiian Territorial Guard the next day and later joined the U.S. Navy. For 30 years after the war, he worked for Pan American Airlines.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has no statistics that any Pearl Harbor survivors are still alive. But of his 16 million men who served in World War II, only about 240,000 were still alive as of August, and about 230 died each day, according to departmental data. I’m here.
According to rough estimates compiled by military historian J. Michael Wenger, there were approximately 87,000 military personnel on Oahu at the time of the attack.
The ceremony, sponsored by the Navy and the National Park Service, included a minute of silence at 7:55 a.m. when the attack began, and a missing persons formation flight.
Navy and Park Service officials will speak.