By KATHY SOLE Special Correspondent
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — The morning of Dec. 7, 2016, began with a cloudless sky and a cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean entering the entrance to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
They say this warm, sunny day is very similar to the weather 75 years ago, on Dec. 7, 1941, when the first wave of 183 planes from the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet in the harbor and other U.S. military facilities at Wheeler Air Force Base, Scofield Barracks, Hickam Air Base, and other installations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and Hawaiian civilians lost their lives in the attack. This surprise attack brought the U.S. into World War II and marked the beginning of our participation in one of the most devastating wars in history.
The marking of the 75th anniversary began at 7 a.m. Hawaii Time, with thousands of people sitting adjacent to the USS Arizona Memorial and the battleship USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor. The two battleships now serve as bookends in Pearl Harbor, marking the beginning and the end of the U.S. involvement in the war in the Pacific. Hosted by the National Park Service and the U.S. Navy, at precisely 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time — the time of the attack — one could have heard a pin drop as the gathered crowd observed a moment of silence for those who gave their lives that day 75 years ago, and all those military and civilian personnel who suffered during that horrific event.
Suddenly, a group of planes, this time U.S. F-22 Raptors, flew over Pearl Harbor. Over the USS Arizona Memorial, they executed a missing man formation. One plane pulled up out of formation and flew high into the heavens to honor the U.S. military men and women lost on that day.
The ceremony continued with the presentation of colors and the singing of the National Anthem and the state song of Hawaii. In the harbor, the USS Halsey, a guided missle destroyer, appeared, with all her sailors and Marines ringing the deck and saluting the crowd, which included a handful of Pearl Harbor survivors, World War II veterans, and military dignitaries. On land, Donald Stratton, one of five remaining USS Arizona survivors, returned the salute on behalf of all those who served in WWII.
Everyone was moved by this single man still standing and saluting for all those who could no longer do so.
I want to share more of this day’s ceremony and other events with you. However, there is so much to tell, and this article would take several pages. So instead, I will close for now and follow later today and in the next few days with additional stories about the anniversary.
As the daughter of a World War II vet, I feel a profound sadness today and deeply miss my dad, who passed away in 1988. He was fortunate not to be at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, but he served proudly in the U.S. Army Air Corps/ U.S. Air Force for 30 years.
I send my heartfelt thanks and my prayers to today’s military personnel who continue to risk their lives in service to our country. I also remember all of you who are members of the families of those brave folks who also sacrifice much so we can enjoy freedom in the United States today.
Mahalo. (Thank you!)