More than a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors, each more than 90 years old, gathered in Hawaii this week to share stories as they marked the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack that killed 2,400 sailors, Marines and soldiers.
The gathering has been called the last meeting for the USS Arizona Reunion Association – comprised of the remaining nine survivors of the USS Arizona, a battleship that sank in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
But Louis Conter isn’t ready to talk about the end.
“I don’t think this is going to be our last. … We’ve still got time to go,” said Conter, 93, of Grass Valley, Calif. “We’ll be back out here no matter whether the rest of the crowd can make it or not.”
“I feel very proud of them and I think they’re like a national treasure and when they say that they were the Greatest Generation, I have to fully endorse that,” Col. Robert Brooks, whose father, Eddie Brooks, was a Pearl Harbor survivor, told KHON2.
“I don’t think this is going to be our last. … We’ve still got time to go.”
– Pearl Harbor survivor Louis Conter, 93
Donald Stratton, 92, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was one of the few survivors of a gun director in the forward part of the ship. More than 65 percent of his body was burned. Stratton was hospitalized for more than year and then was medically discharged from the Navy.
He re-enlisted a year later. “The good Lord saved just a few of us,” he said.
During a private event Sunday, the men will toast their shipmates, drinking from replicas of champagne glasses from the Arizona. They will share a bottle of sparkling wine that was a gift to the survivors association from President Gerald Ford’s visit to Spain in 1975.
The men arrived at the Pearl Harbor visitor center on Tuesday to military salutes, music from the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Band and photos from tourists. At the news conference, they reminisced about memories of the attack.
“I learned something about faith,” said John Anderson, 97, of Roswell, N.M., recalling that he had just gone to church services and was heading to breakfast when someone said they saw the planes coming. He became teary-eyed as he discussed his twin brother dying in the attack.
“It’s always like yesterday when we’re out here,” Conter added.
The survivors on Tuesday also watched a live-feed of a dive along the Arizona’s sunken hull, which still holds the bodies of more than 900 of about 1,177 men who died on the battleship.
Ashes of 38 survivors are interred there.
National Park Service Historian Daniel Martinez, moderating Tuesday’s discussion, seemed overcome with emotion when he announced that Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner, 94, of La Mirada, Calif., last year signed paperwork for his intentions to be interred there. Conter plans to do the same, he said.
“It seems like after a while nobody pays attention to them anymore, after about five years,” Bruner said of his decision not to be buried in a cemetery. “I hope a lot of people will still be … coming over to the Arizona and we’ll be glad to see them.”
As this Dec. 7th, the 68th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, causes us to reflect on war and suffering, the Church has us read:
Isaiah 35: 1-10
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Isaiah sees each man’s part, “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened, ‘Be strong, fear not! Here is your God’ ” With Isaiah, Pope Benedict XVI sees every man’s participation in this coming of peace, this becoming of each and every man and woman. Benedict sees the vocation of all as integral in their fulfillment and God’s destiny for His people.
St. Augustin wrote:
The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – includes not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him: who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.
“ Progress, in its origin and essence, is first and foremost a vocation: “in the design of God, every man is called upon to develop and fulfill himself, for every life is a vocation.” This is what gives legitimacy to the Church’s involvement in the whole question of development. If development were concerned with merely technical aspects of human life, and not with the meaning of man’s pilgrimage through history in company with his fellow human beings, nor with identifying the goal of that journey, then the Church would not be entitled to speak on it.”
Further, Pope Benedict challenges every woman/man, every generation,
“Love in truth — caritas in veritate — is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized. The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development. Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.
Benedict goes on to say:
“Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce.”
Benedict with Isaiah calls us to a journey and a service to truth which sets us free, despite the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.
Pearl Harbor Attacked!
Pearl Harbor Survivors Association here.
Lessons from history are the most potent. Forgetting our history and the historical fact of our relationships with other nations and their history, will make us victims of our own stupidity. As threatening to our future and freedom as that is, the mangling of history, the distorting history and the making of history to be “politically correct” and palatable to all, endangers this and future generations who need truth not fiction and propaganda to survive.
Michelle Malkin on “never forget”: Pearl Harbor 68 years.