PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eighty-six year-old Ed Johann vividly remembers the attack that changed his life and the course of US history.
"The sounds, the explosions, the people hollering."
Just a 17-year-old sailor at the time-- Johann helped rescue people from burning ships -- and also pulled them from the water.
"There was a lot of confusion, mass confusion and so then we're getting them out of the water, and the water's burning and there's a lot of smoke and toxic gases above the burning water," Pearl Harbor survivor, Ed Johann said.
Johann returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time joining an estimated two thousand people. The annual remembrance held on Kilo Pier honored the nearly 2,400 Americans killed 68 years ago.
"Saw the Arizona engulfed in flames. Oklahoma had already been keeled over. It was a terrible sight," survivor Herb Weatherwax said.
This year's theme -- "But Not in Shame: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor" -- expands the focus beyond the bombing.
"With everything at risk, the six months after Pearl Harbor shows you this shift from that initial defeat to the glimmers of victory that would come three years later," said Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the new WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
The theme reflects the broader mission of the new $58 million visitor center which is still under construction. Phase one opens in February.
"With this new expansive look at World War II and the Pacific, you can see that it's going to be more inclusive and get you to those places," Martinez said.