PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands attended ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that also marked the end of an era for the few remaining survivors from the U.S.S. Arizona.
John Delmar Anderson, Lauren Fay Bruner, Louis A. Conter and Donald Gay Stratton poured a final toast to their shipmates in arms and drank from the original champagne glasses from the Arizona Sunday. They are four of the nine remaining Arizona survivors, all in their 90's, and announced that this year will be the final time they will come together. The final salute hopes to symbolize the brotherhood and sacrifice of the Pearl Harbor attacks 73 years ago.
"Although the attacks occurred so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and in such tragic proportions, our reluctant nation emerged to fight and ultimately win World War II," said Gen. Lori Robinson, Commander of Pacific Air Forces, in remarks at the ceremony.
It was a time for survivors to be honored, men who may appear to be everyday citizens, but are members of what's become known as "The Greatest Generation." And at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, they were treated as such on Sunday.
"Today's ceremony shows the world the importance of our survivors and how they never forgot the friends and the brothers and the sisters they lost, or the common cause for which they fought," said Rear Adm. Rick Williams, Commander of Navy Region Hawaii.
"It is one of the greatest moments that any serviceman can have happen to them, would be to attend this program," said survivor Don Henry. He was a member of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield when it was attacked later that day. Although wounded, he was part of the effort to clear the damage at Pearl Harbor in the days after the attack.
"We come every year. We've been here for several years," said Woodrow Derby, who was aboard the U.S.S. Nevada at the time of the attack. "It's very important. It's exercise. It's freedom. It's getting out and around."
There are fewer and fewer of these men, who can look out over Pearl Harbor and remember when war came to its peaceful waters.
"All the men and women that were killed is very -- very meaningful to me," said Henry. He noted that Sunday's weather was almost exactly as it was the morning of the attack.
The theme of Sunday's event was "Preserving the Memory." There are only 2,000 or so remaining Pearl Harbor survivors.
"There will come a time when we'll have the ceremony, but we'll have their oral history speaking for them during that ceremony. And we'll have clips of them being here. So that memory stays alive," said Daniel Martinez, the National Monument's chief historian.
"It is critical that our nation preserves the memory of these events, not only to honor those who sacrificed so much, but to capture the stories and lessons learned," said Gen. Robinson.
Additional 73rd Anniversary Pearl Harbor Events, Dec. 7:
USS Oklahoma Memorial Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance on Ford Island
Sunday, Dec. 7 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Free Admission; Free Shuttle to Ford Island Departs every 15 minutes from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. from the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park Shuttle Stop
Hosted by the National Park Service in honor of those who served on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Oklahoma (BB-37) Memorial was officially dedicated on Dec. 7, 2007. The memorial is located on Ford Island, near Fox-5 Pier next to the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The Battleship Oklahoma was berthed along Ford Island on Dec. 7, 1941, and suffered the second greatest loss of life during the attack. The memorial includes 429 marble columns symbolizing each of the crewmembers who lost their lives on that fateful day. Public wishing to attend the ceremony can catch a free shuttle departing every 15 minutes from the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, which is adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, beginning at 12:30 p.m.