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Pearl Harbor Survivors Gather on 80th Anniversary

Last year, they had to stay home
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2021 6:07 PM CST
Pearl Harbor Survivors Gather on 80th Anniversary
A veteran stands with the military color guard before the start of the 80th Pearl Harbor Anniversary ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Honolulu.   (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

(Newser) – A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor and other veterans gathered Tuesday at the site of the bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack by Japan that launched the US into World War II. The USS Chung-Hoon, a guided missile destroyer, passed in front of the pier with its sailors "manning the rails," or lining the ship’s edge, to honor the World War II veterans present, the AP reports. David Russell, a 101-year-old from Albany, Oregon, who survived the attack while on the USS Oklahoma, stood to salute to the destroyer on behalf of the veterans. Herb Elfring, 99, said he was glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he almost didn’t live through the aerial assault.

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Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard on Dec. 7, 1941. He recalled Japanese planes flying overhead and bullets strafing his Army base at Camp Malakole, a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor. Elfring, who lives in Jackson, Michigan, said he has returned to Hawaii about 10 times to attend the annual memorial ceremony hosted by the Navy and the National Park Service. About 30 survivors and about 100 other veterans of the war joined him this year. Veterans stayed home last year due to the pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead.

They observed a moment of silence at 7:55am, the same minute the attack began decades ago. The bombing killed more than 2,300 US troops. Nearly half—or 1,177—were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recounted in his keynote address how Petty Officer 1st Class Joe George tossed a line to the USS Arizona that six men trapped by fire in the battleship’s control tower used to cross to his ship, the USS Vestal. Five of the six survived. Among them was Donald Stratton of Red Cloud, Nebraska, who died last year. "We sometimes talk about our victory in World War II as though it was inevitable. Only a matter of time. But there was nothing inevitable about one sailor’s decision to toss that line," Del Toro said. He said it took millions of individual acts of valor and courage at home and overseas to get the nation through the war. (Read more Pearl Harbor stories.)

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