World War II veterans recently commemorated the war's end with ceremonies at Pearl Harbor. Charles Borgstede, left, showed a visitor his father's scrapbook detailing the construction of the battleship USS Missouri in 1944. His father, August "Gus" Borgstede, was a civilian worker at the Navy shipyard where the Missouri was built.

WWII veterans
spread praise

Many commend troops now
serving in wars abroad

When nearly three dozen World War II veterans were brought aboard one of the Navy's newest guided missile cruisers this week, the announcement over the Lake Erie's public address system blared out, "Greatest Generation arriving."

They were among more than 400 World War II veterans who were in the islands to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the country's bloodiest conflict -- the war in the Pacific against Japan.

At Friday's ceremony, held under a picture-perfect island sky at the battleship where formal surrender documents were signed on Sept. 2, 1945, the veterans repeatedly were praised by military and political leaders for their diligence, patriotism and sacrifices.

In turn, many recalled why they went to war in the first place and said they support the efforts of a younger generation in the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan and other places in the war on terrorism.

Clayton Cass, 79, who fought for six years as a gunner on the USS Missouri, said: "President Bush is doing okay. I don't know who would do any better."

Frank Grebner, 81, who served on two submarine auxiliary ships during three years in the Pacific added, "I think Sept. 11 tells the story."

Bob Kemmler, 81, a crew member on the destroyer escort USS Nevendorff from 1942 to 1946, added, "I admire the president for decisions he has made."

At the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kemmler, of Harrisburg, Pa., said he was honored to be the representative of the Navy's World War II veterans and was one of the official greeters when President Clinton visited the USS Arizona Memorial.

Lynn Harrer, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a crew member of the battleship USS Pennsylvania, said he still supports the troops because "I know what it was like. I was one of them in World War II."

Harrer, 84, of Orange, Calif., served on two other ships during World War II after leaving the Pennsylvania. His black and white overseas cap sports pins from the numerous Pearl Harbor anniversary events he has attended.

"I was here for the 50th and again for the 60th," said Harrer after he attended Friday's ceremony with his grandson, Rob Keller, who was stationed here while a crew member of the attack sub USS Chicago.

"I will be here again for the 65th anniversary," Harrer added. "We used to have to a reunion every 10 years, but now it's down to five."

Harrer recalled that the Pennsylvania had moved into dry dock away from Battleship Row the Wednesday before the attack on the Pacific Fleet on Sunday Dec. 7, 1941: "We were lucky only 28 men were killed."

William Chamberlain, 84, of Chico, Calif., added: "I think President Bush is on the right track. This all started with attacks on America and it won't be over until it is over."

Colin Saromines, who was born in Lahaina but who now lives in Federal Way, Wash., fought in the Pacific and Europe in World War II and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. A 26-year veteran, Saromines, 81, said he "supports Bush all the way. I support what he is doing and our troops in the Middle East."

Saromines, who retired from the Navy in 1975, has served as Veterans of Foreign Wars post commander in Waipahu and Seattle.

In praising the veterans of World War II, Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy's top man in the Pacific, said: "Their legacy, heroism and patriotism are worthy of celebration and emulation.

"It is no wonder that their generation who bled and died, who gave us what we have today, is known so majestically and quite simply as 'The Greatest.'

"In the tradition of the first American patriots, they valiantly pledged 'their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.' Their contribution is immeasurable and it hardened the foundation upon which our nation is built."

Roughead recalled that more than 12 million service men and women, from more than two dozen Allied nations died during World War II.

He added: "In commemorating this great event today, we also celebrate the magnificent service of those who brought it about; of those who fought, suffered, prevailed and died in places like the Coral Sea, Midway, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

"These heroes, in the dawn of their lives, were awarded no less than 464 Medals of Honor. They survived unfathomable experiences and they exemplify the greatness we have come to know in and expect from our armed forces. They defeated imperialistic tyranny and fascist hegemony."

Roughead then turned his praise to the more than 150,000 men and women fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places in the war on terrorism.

"The service of this current band of patriotic warriors is as exemplary as this country has ever seen in its distinguished past. These patriots, also in the dawn of their lives, take the fight to the enemy so that the enemy cannot take it to us. They too have pledged 'their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor' in the latest struggle against 'the darkness of tyranny and terror," Roughead said.

It was NBC anchor Tom Brokaw who coined the phrase "Greatest Generation" in his 1998 book when he memorialized the experiences of Americans in the deadliest war in history. He wrote then: "They were proud of what they accomplished, but they rarely discussed their experiences, even with each other."

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