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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 12:45 p.m., Friday, December 7, 2007

Survivors remember Pearl Harbor attack

Advertiser Military Writer


Adm. Robert F. Willard, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, was the keynote speaker at today's 66th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack during a memorial ceremony at Kilo Pier.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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PEARL HARBOR — On the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the gulf in technology and time from that moment was never wider, but the bond with succeeding generations never stronger.

After a moment of silence to mark the 7:55 a.m. attack today, a B-2 "batwing" Stealth bomber arced through the sky near Kilo Pier, where fewer than 50 aging Pearl Harbor survivors gathered for this year's remembrance.

Their dwindling numbers were not lost on anyone, and the canes and stooped postures of the men in their 80s and 90s were demonstrations of that fact.

Like many others, Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force, respectfully shook the hands of some of the gathered survivors before the ceremony began.

Among them was retired Navy Chief Edward Gaulrapp, 84, who served on eight subs and was at Pearl harbor at the time of the attack.

"These guys are our history," Walsh said. "They are the guys we serve for every day."

Fewer than 2,000 people came out for the 66th anniversary, after the milestone 65th, but those who did showed an even greater appreciation for the men who fought on Dec. 7, 1941, and through the years that followed.

Four Hawaii National Guard CH-47 helicopters flew in formation over the harbor, and the cruiser USS Lake Erie passed the Arizona Memorial, paying respect with sailors manning the rails.

Noreen McCarthy, 44, from Rockford, Ill., visited Pearl Harbor for the second year in a row on Dec. 7 "to honor those who have served — all of them."

Her father-in-law was in the Navy and her father retired from the Army.

"We wouldn't be where we are without their sacrifice," McCarthy said.

Six military sites on Oahu were attacked, killing 2,390, destroying or damaging more than 320 aircraft and sinking or damaging 21 vessels.

Several hundred Oklahomans flew out to Hawai'i to attend the noon dedication of a new memorial on Ford Island to the 429 men who died on the battleship Oklahoma — the second greatest loss of life after the USS Arizona.

Darryl Finch, 87, recalled being on Ford island, "kind of the bull'seye of the whole affair."

The Navy aviation metalsmith helped in the dispensary with the wounded.

"It was just a matter of bringing in the guys who were rescued from the water," he said. "It was a continuous stream."

There was "a lot of confusion" that day, he said. "They issued rifles out of the armory there, but no ammunition."

Finch, from California, said part of the reason he came out was because he was on the battleship Oklahoma from 1938 to 1940.

Joe Davis, 57, from Sacramento, told Finch "thank you very much for what you've done."

"I was in the Navy and I thought in my lifetime, 'This is probably the last chance I'd have to see the ceremony' — a lot of our survivors are passing on," Davis said. "Our chance of being able to come here and honor them is waning fast."