On a sleepy Sunday morning 73 years ago, more than 2,400 American military personnel and civilians were killed in an unprovoked attack by Japanese aircraft and submarines at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
A lightly attended ceremony sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 46 remembered that infamous attack Saturday morning at American Legion Post 168 in Hinesville.
Guest speaker for the ceremony was Lt. Col. Scott Shaw, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4thInfantry Brigade Combat Team. A color guard from Shaw’s unit and members of the 3rd Infantry Division Band also took part in the ceremony.
DAV Chapter 46 Senior-Vice Commander Donald Spencer welcomed those attending. After an invocation by Adna Chaffee, the posting of the colors, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and a moving rendition of the national anthem by Spc. Shannon Rafferty, DAV Chapter 46 Commander Walter Helmick and DAV Auxiliary Commander Melinda Schneider placed the ceremonial wreath.
“Thank you for inviting me here to speak to you on the 73rdanniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Shaw said before listing the number killed and ships destroyed during the attack. “It was truly a day that will live in infamy. World War II and especially Dec. 7, 1941, evokes powerful emotions — the burning ships in the bay, military members and civilians dead and wounded on American soil and an enemy who
brutally attacked us.”
Shaw related a little-known historical fact about the USS Ward, the American destroyer that fired the first shots of the battle by sinking a Japanese submarine at the entrance to Pearl Harbor only minutes before Japanese planes began their attack.
He then briefly talked about his grandfather serving in the Army during that war, but he talked at length about Master Chief Petty Officer Frank Noonan, who enlisted in the Navy right out of high school and was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona in Hawaii. Days before the attack, he was reassigned to a sister ship in Pearl Harbor, the USS Oklahoma.
Both ships were sank during the attack. Nearly 1,200 sailors and Marines were killed on the Arizona while 427 were killed on the Oklahoma, Shaw said. Noonan was among the few survivors. He celebrated his 18thbirthday in a Navy hospital then served in the Navy through that war and two others, ultimately retiring in 1971. Noonan died Dec. 19, 2013. The Navy buried his remains at sea in January.
Shaw described the attack at Pearl Harbor and all of World War II as a human story, one that tells of the valor and commitment of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. He then likened the circumstances of Pearl Harbor and WWII to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which 2,996 Americans were murdered in another unprovoked attack.
He compared images of 9/11 with those of WWII, including the smoke, twisted steel and an American flag raised by New York firemen. There, too, was valor, he said, suggesting the spirit of one generation had entered another.
He said many, many Americans still possess what he called “an instinctive response” to fight back when attacked. As with the generation who fought the “greatest war,” he said today’s generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines still answer the call to defend this nation, “again and again and again.”
“Americans should never forget the events of that sleepy Sunday morning so long ago, or that sleepy Tuesday morning 13 years ago,” Shaw said. “Dec. 7, 1941 was not just a day of infamy. In many ways, it was a day of discovery for America and the world. “It changed us. It hurt us. But it made us stronger. As the Japanese and our enemies learn daily, it awakened ‘the sleeping giant.’ We must never forget.”
There ceremony concluded with a bell chime for each year of World War II, 1941-45.
Retired soldiers Graydon Martin and Guido Knapp were some of the oldest veterans present for this year’s Pearl Harbor ceremony.
Martin joined the Army in 1941 as an infantryman and served until he retired in 1970. Knapp was an American civilian living in Europe during World War II. After the war, he joined the Air Force then later the Army where he served as a military policeman until he retired in 1982.