Pearl Harbor Marks 66th Anniversary of Attack

George Smith
George Smith

PEARL HARBOR (KHNL) -- The surprise attack is considered the greatest defeat in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Some of the dwindling number of survivors joined top military brass and dignitaries to mark the 66th anniversary of the attack.

There are fewer and fewer Pearl Harbor survivors among us.

Even fewer managed to attend this morning's commemoration.

But still, they came.

"Well, you stand here and you think about what happened," said George Smith, a U.S.S. Oklahoma survivor. "It was a great honor to say that I lived through it. I really don't know what to say. I'm all choked up."

Historians consider this a time of transition, when these men, who survived the surprise attack, will themselves fade into history.

Politicians justly acknowledge them.

''Being here with you survivors never gets old," said Governor Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii).  "In fact, it gains in significance through the years. As I watch you come back here to our state, to this sacred ground, year after year, and I've been given a great privilege to be here with you."

So, did the Navy's top leader in the Pacific.

"Thank you all for what you have given us, in your service, and in your example," said Admiral Robert Willard, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander.  "God bless you all."

But, the truth is, these survivors -- of the attack, and of life -- are in their 80's.

Some, in their 90's.

So after they are gone, will we still remember?

''You think about this day as a national day of remembrance across the country," said Daniel Martinez, National Park Service historian.  "Pearl Harbor is an iconic moment in our past, in world history. It will never be forgotten."