Veterans hold Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony

Veterans hold Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony

Veterans hold Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony

On the frosty morning of Dec. 7, Winnemucca-area veterans gathered around the flag pole at Winnemucca Cemetery. The group was holding a solemn ceremony marking the anniversary of the date and time that Japanese bombers attacked the sleeping naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii: Dec. 7, 1941 at 7:55 a.m.

As part of Thursday morning’s ceremony, the flag was lowered completely, then raised to half-staff.

Retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 Paul Schlehr recounted the events that led the United States into World War II.

“At 7:55 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, the first wave of Japanese fighter planes struck; the second wave of attackers would come 45 minutes later.”

The total attack lasted less than two hours, and claimed the lives of 2,335 US servicemen and 68 civilians. 1,143 servicemen and 35 civilians were injured, Schlehr said. 65 Japanese soldiers died during the attack and one was taken prisoner.

Army airfields at Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, Bellows Field, Ewa Field, Schoefield Barracks and Kaneohe Naval Air Station were also targeted during the attack.

“Many of the US airplanes were lined up outside, along with the airstrips, wingtip to wingtip, in order to avoid sabotage. Unfortunately, that made them easy targets for the Japanese attackers,” Schlehr said.

“Caught unawares, US troops and commanders scrambled to get planes in the air and ships out of the harbor, but they were able to muster only a feeble defense, largely from the ground.”

Eight US battleships were stationed at Pearl Harbor: The Arizona, the California, the Maryland, the Nevada, the Oklahoma, the Pennsylvania, the Tennessee and the West Virginia. All eight sustained damage or sank during the attack, and all but two of them – the Arizona and the Oklahoma – eventually returned to active duty.

“The Arizona exploded when a bomb breached its forward magazine, the ammunition room,” Schlehr said. “As a result of the explosion, fires, and sinking, 1,177 of the Arizona’s 1,400-man crew were killed. After being torpedoed, the Oklahoma listed so badly that it turned upside down.”

The Japanese also used midget subs to target the battleships, Schlehr said. American forces sank four of these subs and captured the fifth one.

“In all, nearly 20 American naval vessels and about 300 aircraft were damaged or destroyed in the attack,” Schlehr explained.

As a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941. In his address to a joint session of Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.”

Germany and Italy declared war on the US on Dec. 11, 1941.

“World War II had begun,” Schlehr said.

The group of veterans at Winnemucca Cemetery held a moment of silence. Dr. Mike Baumgartner then played Taps.

Schlehr concluded his remarks with some information about Japanese Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. The information included the quotation:

“A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.”

Schlehr said Yamamoto’s quote “may have been the basis for the quote from the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” ‘I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.’”

“With the nuclear weapons used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world realized that the “sleeping giant” had been awakened,” Schlehr said. “The war ended September 2, 1945, with [Japan’s] surrender signed on the deck of the Battleship USS Missouri.”

With the flag returned to the top of the staff, the ceremony concluded with the Pledge of Allegiance and an invitation to defrost at Sid’s Restaurant.