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9 Incredibly Powerful Moments from Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony

The 75th anniversary of the attack on O‘ahu provided drama, emotion, surprise and even some humor


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Pearl Harbor ceremony

Photo: U.S. Department of defense Press Pool 

 

The eyes of a nation turned to Hawai‘i this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on O‘ahu that plunged the United States into World War II and forever changed Hawai‘i.

 

SEE ALSO: 2016 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration Ceremony

 

An estimated 7,000-plus people gathered on the shores of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 2016, while countless others joined the event via live-stream coverage across the world, with the event beamed to the public in New York City’s Times Square and more privately through TVs, computers and smartphones across the country and world.

 

We find ourselves with nearly too many stories to tell. Here are some memorable moments from the main remembrance:

 

1. Timing

With thousands of people who arrived by the busload, planners deserve credit for a dignified moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. the exact moment the attack began 75 years ago.                 

 

Pearl Harbor

Photo: David Croxford 

 

2. Heart-tugging maneuvers

With the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey conducting pass-in-review honors to the sunken USS Arizona—where 1,177 crewmen died that day—and F-22 Raptors flying the missing-man formation above, the rituals helped bring home the significance of the day to the crowd gathered before dawn at Kilo Pier 7 and 8.

 

3. Admiral attitude

 

After a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, Four-star Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. —commander of the U.S. Pacific Command—prompted a standing ovation with some political commentary: “You can bet that the men and women we honor today—and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago—never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played.” (The statement, of course, referred to athletes and celebrities refusing traditional anthem protocol to protest issues of social justice.)

 

4. Morning was broken

Pearl Harbor

PHOTO: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PRESS POOL

 

Adm. Harris also conjured up how shocking that attack was: “Just prior to the attacks 75 years ago—on a morning not unlike this one—people not unlike us were waking up to enjoy another day in paradise. Indeed, some of the veterans joining us today were probably thinking about spending the day on the beach, playing baseball, hanging out with friends, or listening to the battle of the bands at Bloch Arena right here on this base. No one knew it would be the last moment of peace for almost 4 years.”

 

5. Credit to the vets

Pearl Harbor

PHOTO: David Croxford 

 

Adm. Harris: “It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism, even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss. In less than two hours, there were over 2,400 killed, 1,200 wounded, a majority of the US Pacific Fleet taken out of action. Catastrophic by any standard. The scars remain and we see them all around us. The battleships USS Arizona and USS Utah still entombed in these waters behind me... the USS Oklahoma memorial... the bullet holes in the buildings at Ford Island and Hickam Field... and on the bodies and in the minds of the veterans here with us today.”

 

6. Military Message

Adm. Harris: “They did not go quietly into that night, and along with those who survived, a reluctant nation emerged to fight and ultimately win World War II. Those who survived Pearl Harbor also left us a warning: ‘Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America alert. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’

 

Photo: Patrick Mahoney/U.S. Marine Corps

 

7. Peace now and forever

The Rev. Tsunekiyo Tanaka delivered a prayer for peace from the Japan Religious Committee for World Federation, first in Japanese and then translated. Tanaka reflected how once sworn enemies now come together: “We are gathered here today in the name of peace.” He added, “may lasting peace prevail in the world.”

 

8. Laugh shared

The giant screens beaming the service across oceans also captured some little moments. At one point, the audience laughed appreciatively when the camera rested mid-speech on a venerable survivor, whose wife or companion was clearly talking earnestly to him even as he attempted to give her the universal cut sign of a finger waved across his throat.

 

9. Echo Taps

Two buglers from the Pacific Fleet Band performed a haunting rendition of the melancholy 24-note composition that signals the military end of day, lights out or funeral/memorial   service tribute. With both buglers standing in the sun, the Arizona memorial gleaming behind, they played the tune in echo parts, a truly chicken-skin moment.

 

Read More Stories by Robbie Dingeman 

 

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Honolulu Magazine March 2017
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