CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Corrie Michell, 8, visited one of 2,500 flags erected on Richardson Field at Pearl Harbor yesterday. The flags represent servicemembers killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as Hawaii citizens and military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The so-called Healing Field Flag Memorial is hosted by the American Legion and Auxiliary of Hawaii and will be on display until Monday. Ceremonies commemorating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will be held today, the 66th anniversary, when Hawaii Army National Guard helicopters will fly over the USS Arizona Memorial in the place of grounded F-15 fighter jets.
Isle Guard helicopters to mark 1941 attack
Chinooks replace F-15 jets grounded since last month
For the first time, Hawaii National Guard helicopters will fly over ceremonies commemorating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew America into World War II.
Hawaii Army Guard Iraqi war veterans will be flying in the four-aircraft tribute to the 2,390 service members and civilians killed on Dec. 7, 1941.
"I feel honored to be doing this Dec. 7 ceremony," said Hawaii Guard Capt. Joseph Tolentino, who flew Chinooks in Iraq as a member of Bravo Company, 193rd Aviation, three years ago. "It's a privilege."
A lone B-2 stealth bomber also will join the aerial tribute. The bat-shaped bomber is here for training bombing missions at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area. It is one of four deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
Tolentino will be in one of the four Chinooks that will fly in a diamond formation 500 feet above the USS Arizona Memorial, which spans the sunken battleship.
They will lumber over the crowd of more than 2,000 veterans, military leaders and politicians at 7:55 a.m., marking the exact moment the first of 350 Japanese planes struck Pearl Harbor and five other military sites on Oahu.
The traditional naval pass-in-review honors will be rendered by the crew of the cruiser USS Lake Erie, whose sailors, dressed in their ceremonial white uniforms, will stand at attention as it sails past the Arizona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed.
The missing-man formation flyover is normally done by F-15 fighters from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron. But the jets have been grounded since last month, and the Hawaii Army National Guard helicopter unit -- redesignated as Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation, after its return from Iraq in 2005 -- was asked to fill in.
For the second year, the ceremony was to be hosted jointly by the Navy and the National Park Service, which operates the Arizona Visitor Center, and held on Kilo Pier at Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Until last year, two separate services were held each Dec. 7.
Guest speakers today were to be retired Adm. Thomas Fargo, former head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Command; U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye; Robert Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service; and Adm. Robert Willard, current head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Following the wreath presentations by representatives of the military branches, the Park Service and the eight battleships bombed on Dec. 7, the official party of Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans groups were to take a motor launch to the Arizona Memorial for private floral tributes.
A special flag-raising ceremony was be held to launch "Old Glory's Journey of Remembrance" on the Arizona Memorial. The same American flag will be flown over 24 other mainland memorials, national cemeteries and battlefields between now and Memorial Day, May 26.
Gov. Linda Lingle ordered the Hawaii state flag to be lowered to half-staff today .
At noon, 18 survivors of the battleship USS Oklahoma will dedicate a new memorial on Ford Island. Paul Goodyear, an Oklahoma survivor, will hoist a ceremonial flag from a flagpole at the center of the memorial.