Not a time for ‘weaker souls’

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Tears ran down the wrinkled cheeks of 81-year-old Wayne Pease on Tuesday as he recalled Dec. 7, 1941.

“I had a bird’s-eye view to watch five battleships go down,” said Pease, who was an 18-year-old seaman aboard the destroyer USS Sicard when Japan launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pease, of Fort Myers, Fla., was among about a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors who returned to the site of their most haunting memories to honor fallen comrades. Ceremonies were held on shore and on the gleaming white monument straddling the submerged USS Arizona.

“On December the sixth, I was a boy,” he said. “On December the seventh, I became a man, suddenly. I grew up in one day. I grew up in two hours, you might say.”

“It was a day when weaker souls would have surrendered,” Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said of the attack that thrust the United States into World War II. “It was a day that gave real meaning to our name, the United States of America.”

A moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. marked the exact time the bombs began to fall. Hawaii Air National Guard jets roared overhead in a missing-man formation.

The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and a Navy bugler playing taps.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, 2,390 people were killed and 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude for all the shipmates for what they did for each other, for what they did for the ships and what they did for us as a nation,” Navy historian Paul Stillwell said. “It is because of their contribution this country is free.”

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