Seventy-four years ago, the United States was cast into World War II by the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Today the National Naval Aviation Museum held its 24th annual observance.
Music was provided by the Tate High School Band – which is scheduled to perform at Pearl Harbor, for next year’s 75th anniversary. A half-dozen Pearl Harbor survivors – all in their 90s -- were seated in the front row to a standing ovation.
Bob Pays, a volunteer at the Museum of Naval Aviation, has produced the program for the past four years. And starting next year, Pays says that outreach will be extended once again, to the survivors’ families, and to the families of all who served in the war.
“For it is they who heard the stories, and learned the history and the lessons first-hand from those that were there,” said Pays.”
After a short musical interlude of World War II-era favorites, the guest speaker was Retired Admiral Samuel Cox -- director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. He touched on two misconceptions about Pearl Harbor – one, that the Navy was “asleep on the beach drinking mai tais”.
“The ship whose duty it was to be on alert that morning – the USS Ward – fired upon, hit, depth-charged and sank one of the five Japanese mini-subs that was attempting to enter the harbor, well before the attack took place.”
The other misconception, says Cox, was that nobody expected Pearl Harbor to be attacked by air. He told the audience that there’s no way to sugar coat what happened at Pearl, and no way to tell the story in a pretty way.
“It was a horrible, vicious attack, there were all kinds of mistakes made up and down the chain of command,” said Cox. “Many of which were well-intentioned, some just because we didn’t understand Japanese capability at the time.”
“I was in the mess hall, having a cup of coffee with another Marine, getting ready to go on guard [duty],” said Bill Braddock, who was with a Marine Corps unit at Pearl.
“We ran outside, looked across the way at a [Japanese] plane that had a big red ball,” said Braddock. “We saw when he dropped the torpedo that went down and hit the [USS] Oklahoma.”
Monday’s ceremony draws to a close the museum’s yearlong commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II -- by remembering its beginning for the United States.