As it fights its first major conflict of the 21st century, the nation paused today to remember a morning that took the lives of 2,390 Americans 60 years ago and launched America into war.
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"We gather to pay homage to the heroes of a war long gone, and as we come this time, we are at war again, our homeland attacked," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which claimed more American lives than did Pearl Harbor.
He told a crowd of about 200 dignitaries and Pearl Harbor survivors on the Arizona Memorial that the nation's freedoms are once again being threatened as they were in 1941.
"As we come here, we are at war again," said Clark, who commands the U.S fleet throughout the world. "We draw strength from the world-changing events of Dec. 7, 1941."
"We are at war with enemies who hate freedom and democracy ... Americans of 1941 answered the call and today Americans are a doing the same thing. It is our turn. It is time for us to rededicate our lives to the cause of freedom so that children in our nation and others will enjoy the fruits of freedom."
Clark thanked the 21 Arizona survivors and two dozen other survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, including John Finn who won the Medal of Honor knocking down Japanese fighters at Kaneohe Bay, for their sacrifice 60 years ago. "We extend a promise that your sacrifices will be honored."
Clark spoke in front of a giant marble wall bearing the names of 1,177 sailors and Marines who died while serving on the Arizona on Dec. 7.
The 45-minute ceremony ended with a 21-gun rifle salute provided by a Marine unit of seven riflemen and the playing of echo taps.
Vincent Vlach, 84, who served on the Arizona for five years before the attack, said these ceremonies become more and more important each year because "there are less of us each time."
He described this morning's ceremony on the 184-foot memorial, built in 1962, as "a great one because it helps our nation."
Woodrow Wilson Derby, 83, a crew member of the USS Nevada, said every time he visits the memorial he is impressed. "Just to see all those names on the wall of the memorial takes the wind out of your sails."
More than 1,000 people, including about 40 veterans of the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, gathered shoreside at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center to mark the exact moment when Japanese bombs and torpedoes hit the 21 warships anchored on a Sunday morning in 1941.
One of today's speakers was retired Navy Capt. Jim Daniels, who piloted one of five planes from the carrier USS Enterprise that were mistaken for Japanese aircraft on the night of Dec. 7. Four were shot down trying to land at Ford Island.
World War II historian Don Goldstein, of the University of Pittsburgh, described coming to 60th anniversary service as a pilgrimage for many who had lived through the attacks.
"It's a pilgrimage to the biggest event of their lives --the biggest thing that ever happened to them," Goldstein said.
Six military sites on Oahu were attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, with 320 aircraft damaged or destroyed and 21 vessels damaged or sunk. Within three hours the entire Pacific Fleet was destroyed.
The Pearl Harbor attack acted as a catalyst, bringing the United States into World War II.
As in years past, the private Navy ceremony on the alabaster Arizona Memorial, which spans the sunken battleship near Ford island, began exactly at 7:55 a.m., marking the moment 51 Japanese Val dive bombers, 40 Kate torpedo bombers, 50 high-level bombers and 43 Zero fighters struck. Following Clark's speech representatives from 31 military organizations, the Japanese Consulate and veterans' organizations placed floral tributes into the waters of Pearl Harbor.
Before the ceremony, the destroyer USS Hamilton, with its crew standing at attention in dress Navy whites, steamed by the Arizona's berth at Ford Island, paying tribute to the victims of the attack. The Pacific Fleet band played "Amazing Grace" as the Hamilton slid past the memorial. An overhead tribute was rendered by four Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 jet fighters flying in the missing-man formation.
Fading voices: Honoring those
who died on Dec. 7, 1941
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As the WWII generation heads into its 80s, for many this is the last time they will be able to make the trip to Pearl Harbor. Other speakers at the visitor's center were Leonore Rickert, who was on duty at the Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, and Joan Earl, who, as a 10-year-old living on Ford Island, witnessed the attack and watched the Arizona explode and sink.
Describing their Pearl Harbor experiences were USS West Virginia survivor Dick Fiske and Japanese pilot Zenji Abe, whose Aichi dive bomber was one of 168 aircraft in the second wave and whose 551-pound bomb struck the Arizona. With no aircraft carriers in the harbor, Abe said he selected the next best target -- one of the battleships moored at Ford Island.
Ceremonies marking the anniversary also were held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay and at Hickam Air Force Base, where the speaker was Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Honored during the Windward Oahu ceremony were the 18 sailors -- including seven from Patrol Squadron 11 (VP-11) -- and one civilian who were killed during the Japanese attack on the Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station.
Myers also was scheduled to speak at a special Pearl Harbor Survivors Association memorial ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, which was expected to draw more than 3,000 people.
Also scheduled to pay tribute to the survivors of the attack was Robin Higgins, Veterans Affairs undersecretary for memorial affairs.
The survivors also will be honored at a reunion banquet tonight at the Hawaii Convention Center with ABC journalist Sam Donaldson keynoting the event.
As part of this year's 60th anniversary, the ashes of two Arizona survivors who died earlier this year will be entombed in the sunken battleship, joining 17 others who have been laid in gun barrette 4 near the stern of the Arizona.
Entombed today were Gunner's Mate 3rd class James Linox Lawson, 79; and Aviation Machinist Mate 1st class George Dewey Phraner Jr., 79.
Reporter Treena Shapiro also
contributed to this story.
WASHINGTON >> President Bush today remembered Americans killed 60 years ago at Pearl Harbor and honored U.S. forces fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.
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"As we fight to defend what we believe is right, we remember the sacrifice of those who have gone before us -- not only the heroes of Pearl Harbor, but all the men and women of the greatest of generations who defeated tyranny," Bush said in a proclamation before departing Washington for Norfolk, Va., and a speech to sailors on board the USS Enterprise.
Bush had in mind the link between Dec. 7, 1941, the date of the Japanese surprise attack in Hawaii, and Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked New York and Washington.
"The tragedy of Dec. 7, 1941, remains seared upon our collective national memory," Bush said in his National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation. "Now, another date will forever stand alongside Dec. 7 -- Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, our people and our way of life again were brutally and suddenly attacked."
White House officials said Bush also wanted to use his address on the USS Enterprise to examine the changing nature of war over the six decades since Pearl Harbor, and the lessons learned so far in the Afghan conflict.
The president's overall theme: America's military forces must become increasingly flexible, fast and lethal while Americans must brace for a conflict that will test their patience like no other war in U.S. history.
"He's exploring the way the world has changed and how we must change to respond to it," said presidential counselor Karen Hughes.
So far, she said, the war has shown the value of being able to drop smart bombs from the air with the help of special forces pinpointing targets on the ground.
"He's impressed with how the military has married intelligence on the ground with the military in the air," she said of the president.
Both Pearl Harbor and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caught Americans by surprise.
Hughes said the president will emphasize the ways in which the current conflict, with its shadowy but deadly enemies, differs from World War II, when the enemy and the objective were clear.
The nation's top military officer told a group in Honolulu last night that the most they could do to aid in the war on terrorism is to support the men and women of the armed forces.
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"By the time this war is over, those same young men and women currently serving in uniform in our effort to combat terrorism, in my view, may rise to be as great as our World War II generation," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He said the terrorists have underestimated America's resolve to support its military.
Myers, who arrived in Honolulu yesterday for the 60th anniversary of the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor attack, addressed 310 military personnel, retirees and civilians last night at a dinner and auction.
The event at the Hickam Officers' Club helped raise funds for a military aviation museum on Ford Island. Myers served in Hawaii as Pacific Air Forces commander in 1997-98.
Although he called the war on global terrorism a different kind of war, he likened the Sept. 11 attacks to Pearl Harbor.
"I don't think America, in my opinion, has faced such a significant, direct threat to the security of our homeland and our way of life since that fateful day 60 years ago," he said.
Myers spoke of the military's success in the last few weeks in Afghanistan, but cautioned against equating victory with military achievements.
"The military, while the most visible, may not be the most decisive in the end," he said, adding that law enforcement and economic means may turn out to be more important.
Myers urged Americans to have patience in what will likely be a long war. "When those who do crave war bring it to us, we will prosecute it with the determination shown by every generation of Americans, all to defend a way of life. We'll do it with the honor of upholding the legacy the World War II generation created."