Vets keep Pearl Harbor history alive

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

EVERETT — When Japanese warplanes descended on the big ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet 59 years ago Thursday, Herb Drake rushed into action.

A seaman aboard the battleship USS Maryland, he manned an antiaircraft gun, trying to defend his moored ship and others that were sitting ducks for enemy bombers and torpedo planes.

What happened at Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, is an event the people of this country should never forget, said Drake, president of the Snohomish County chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

He and a half-dozen other survivors from Snohomish County were recognized Thursday during a ceremony designed to do just what Drake says we need to do: keep the lessons of Pearl Harbor alive.

"I think it’s good to refresh people’s memories that these things happened," Drake said. "If you go to the history book, there’s one line in it saying the Japanese attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor.

"The kids coming up don’t know anything about it, so that’s why we go out to the schools and talk to the kids," Drake continued, adding that the nation should remain ever prepared to repel aggression.

The ceremony, attended by about 50 people at the Evergreen Cemetery chapel in Everett, was sponsored by the Central Memorial Day Committee.

Pearl Harbor also has a new significance for the main speaker at Thursday’s ceremony. Cmdr. John Field, commanding officer of the Everett-based destroyer USS Fife, said the Pearl Harbor Memorial was one of the first things associated with the United States that he and his crew saw at the end of a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.

Field described first seeing the green mountains of Hawaii two months ago when the Fife was en route home. Then his ship wound up a channel to see the unusual, flared shape of the memorial built over the sunken battleship USS Arizona. The warship sank quickly with 1,177 crew members aboard.

The heritage of sacrifice at Pearl Harbor has been passed down to the men and women in today’s military, Field said.

"Take heart," Field said. "Today’s sailor, soldier, airman and marine are stronger, better trained, and are the most formidable force on the planet."

That commitment comes at a risk, he noted. The deaths of 17 crew members in the USS Cole attack this fall illustrates that pledge to security comes at a price.

"Senseless, tragic attacks come at any time, anywhere," Field said, "both today, yesterday and over 50 years ago on a date that will live in infamy."

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