Mr.Edward Killeen told of being in the USS Tennessee’s crow’s nest early that morning, December 7, 1941, when “PING PING PING, metal hitting metal, you know. I wondered, What is going on? When we realized we were being attacked by the Japanese, I was commanded to sound the bugle and wake-up two thousand men sleeping below.” “It was a miracle I survived,” Mr. Killeen had said. Miracle, indeed. This gentleman is still standing after surviving not only the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but also the Battle of the Coral Sea, as a bazooka man on Saipan Island and as one of the proud US Marines on Iwo Jima.
THE HONOLULU STAR-BULLETIN 1ST EXTRA, on its Sunday December 7, 1941 front page read: WAR! OAHU BOMBED BY JAPANESE PLANES. Seventy years later, the platinum anniversary was about to begin. Five thousand veterans, relatives, dignitaries and citizens made their way to the harbor where it all began. Some survivors had not attended an anniversary service before. Both time and ability spurred these 80- to 90-year-old survivors to attend. From all across the United States the survivors made their way to the place it all started. Just as the sun began to light Pearl Harbor, Military Order of the Purple Heart National Commander Bill Hutton, Ladies National President Barb Cherone, National Safety Officer Harry Smart and National Historian James Klug arrived. Nearly 125 of the Greatest Generations survivors were there. Wearing white pants and aloha shirts, the survivors told their stories, had pictures taken and listened to expressions of appreciation. All remembered the wave after wave of 350 Japanese planes that streamed through the clouds. Eight battleships, six cruisers and 29 destroyers were targeted by the Japanese airplanes. The destruction to the Pacific fleet and military installations on Oahu was crippling.
Seventy years later, MOPH officers greeted every survivor they could, expressing gratitude and respect for their service and sacrifice on that fateful day. The mixture of sorrow and relief for having survived was on the face of each survivor. Yes, there were smiles, because they had survived this nation’s fiercest attack. Most of these survivors went on to fight for four years in the Pacific to bring defeat to the Japanese and victory to the United States of America. History’s account of the 7:55 a.m. attack on Pearl Harbor is still being written. Those that perished that morning probably never knew what hit them. But, this nation banded together like never before, so that their loss would not be in vain.
It has been said that we are only a generation away from forgetting our history. Disabled American Veterans struggle every day to overcome life-changing sacrifices. Their stories provides a vital part of history that has contributed to our American tradition.
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