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Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2017

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Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2017: What happened 76 years ago?

 

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“December 7, 1941 – a date,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously proclaimed, “which will live in infamy.” The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii brought America into World War II.

On Thursday, Americans will mark the 76th anniversary of the raid. Here are some facts surrounding that fateful day:

What happened?

Just before 8 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese planes made a surprise raid on Pearl Harbor, a major U.S. Navy base near Honolulu, Hawaii, according to the History Channel. During the raid, which was launched from aircraft carriers, nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, were damaged or destroyed, as well as more than 300 aircraft. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and at least 1,000 were wounded. 

Why was it a pivotal moment in U.S. history?

In short, the attack brought the United States into World War II. Until the raid, the U.S. had hesitated to join the conflict, which had started on Sept. 1, 1939, after Germany invaded Poland. In those nearly two-and-a-half years, the U.S. had extensively aided the United Kingdom, virtually the sole source of resistance to the Nazis in Europe, but a general mood of isolationism – brought on, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian, by the Great Depression and the memory of huge losses during World War I – led Roosevelt and Congress to be wary of intervention. Pearl Harbor reversed that in under a day, with Congress, less than an hour after Roosevelt’s speech, issuing a declaration of war.

How does the Pearl Harbor attack compare with 9/11?

The official death toll in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack was 2,403, according to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, including 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines and 218 Army service members. Added to this were 68 civilians. Of that number, 1,177 were from the USS Arizona, the wreckage of which now serves as the main memorial to the incident. Fifty-five Japanese also were killed.

In comparison, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to 2,997 deaths, including the 19 terrorists. Of those, 2,606 died at the World Trade Center in New York City, 125 at the Pentagon and 246 on the four planes involved (not including the terrorists). Some of those counted died of illnesses caused by the dust at the World Trade Center site, meaning the total could rise further. 

Where are remembrance ceremonies taking place?

The main ceremony will take place at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument located in Pearl Harbor, a property of the National Park Service. According to a press release, the observance will begin at 7:50 a.m. local time and a moment of silence will occur at 7:55 a.m., the exact time the attack began. A flyover by the U.S. Air Force and the Hawaii Air National Guard will follow. In attendance will be Pearl Harbor survivors, World War II veterans, family members and dignitaries. The ceremonies will be live streamed on the monument’s YouTube and Facebook accounts, as well as on pearlharborevents.com

How many survivors remain?

As of July this year, only five survivors of the USS Arizona, the ship most heavily hit in the raid, were still alive. They are Lauren Bruner, of La Mirada, Calif; Lou Conter, of Grass Valley, Calif.; Lonnie Cook, of Morris, Okla.; Ken Potts of Provo, Utah; and Donald Stratton of Colorado Springs, Colo. All are in their mid-90s. Beyond those who survived on the USS Arizona, the totals are less clear and depend on just who are counted as survivors. In March of this year, the oldest living survivor of the attacks, Californian Ray Chavez, turned 105, according to NBC News. He was aboard a minesweeper, the Condor, when the raid occurred. 

More: 'America needed Pearl Harbor': The history that led to devastating attack

   SEE

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December 7th has always been very important to me and my family. This year, I had to take a couple of days to talk about it. My beloved Pap volunteered when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. He was married to Gram and had three children (my Dad was the oldest) at the time. He served under George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge and was terribly injured and spent 6 months in the hospital. I can't even remember all of the medals that he received, I know the Purple Heart was just one of them. We lost him this year, he was 101 and 9 months old and he was the greatest man I've ever known. He was part of the greatest generation and too few today realize what they went through and the sacrifices that they made. My Pap never talked about his service, I didn't even know about all of the medals until I was 12 years old when one of my uncle's got them out to show us when Pap and Gram were at church. I'll never forget that, I was in awe. He is so very missed and always will be. 


 

"If I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler."

 

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Pearl Harbor hero recognized 76 years after saving 6 from sinking USS Arizona

An American hero is finally getting recognition 76 years after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

 
 

Ahead of Thursday’s anniversary, the secretary of the U.S. Navy posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with valor to Chief Petty Officer Joe George, who died in 1996. The news comes five months after Fox News interviewed one of five living USS Arizona survivors, Donald Stratton, who urged the Navy to recognize George’s heroic actions that day. 

George is credited with saving at least six sailors aboard USS Arizona as it was sinking after being struck several times by Japanese planes during the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, presented the medal to George's daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Observing the ceremony will be four of the five remaining USS Arizona survivors.

In addition to Chief George's Bronze Star, the navy secretary also awarded the Silver Star Medal to Lt. Aloysious H. Schmitt for his actions at Pearl Harbor while serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma, the Navy said in a statement.

"The presentation of the medals is not only appropriate but simply the right thing to do," said Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer. "One of my highest priorities is to honor the service and sacrifice of our sailors, marines, civilians and family members and it is clear that Lt. Schmitt and Chief George are heroes whose service and sacrifice will stand as an example for current and future service members."

donald stratton pearl harbor

Donald Stratton visiting the USS Arizona memorial on Thursday.  (Courtesy of Nikki Stratton)

 

Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner, another Arizona survivor, lobbied hard for George to be recognized. Both traveled to Washington, D.C., with Pearl Harbor survivors over the summer to meet President Donald Trump in the White House and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon.

In August, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced a resolution honoring Pearl Harbor hero George for rescuing six injured sailors from the sinking USS Arizona. 

The resolution was cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

“Joe George is an American hero and deserves this long-awaited honor,” Gardner said. “Veterans like Joe George and Donald Stratton are the best this country has to offer and I thank God every day for Americans like them.”

In July, Arizona survivor Donald Stratton recalled the horror he experienced by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We got hit with the big bomb and that exploded like a million pounds of ammunition. The fireball went about 60, 70 feet in the air,” said Stratton, in an interview with Fox News before his visit to Washington.

“The explosion could have taken us away, but it didn't and thank God we made it across,” he added.

Stratton told the story of the man who passed him the vital lifeline to help him and five other USS Arizona sailors make it to safety. 

Trapped aboard the sinking Arizona, Stratton and the others managed to escape the carnage, which killed 1,177 of his shipmates, with the help of a fellow sailor who threw them a lifeline from his own ship moored next to Arizona. 

With burns over 60 percent of his body, Stratton had to escape his burning warship. 

The battleship USS Arizona sinks after being hit by a Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. Picture taken December 7, 1941.    The U.S. National Archives/Handout via Reuters  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY - RC156189BC80

The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  (REUTERS)

“We proceeded to go hand over hand across the line about 70 feet,” said Stratton. Today, he doesn’t have fingerprints and carries scars across his body, a daily reminder of the horrors he endured at Pearl Harbor. 

The toughest part was reaching the middle of the sagging line stretched across the two ships, and climbing up to the other ship.

“He kept saying, "Come on sailor! You can make it," recalled Stratton about his rescuer, who remained a mystery for 60 years.

The man who rescued Stratton and his fellow sailors that day: Joe George.

In his book, "All the Gallant Men," Stratton described George as "perhaps the strongest man in the harbor, an All-Navy Boxer."

Stratton says George disobeyed his captain's order and threw Stratton the line that would save his life.

"It was kind of surreal. You grow up with your dad thinking of him as dad; you're not used to thinking of him as a hero," said George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, in a statement. "But it's a wonderful story and I'm quite proud of him. Plus I've gotten to know the men he saved and have developed a real bond with the Stratton and Bruner families."

In an oral history documenting the Pearl Harbor attack conducted by the University of North Texas in 1978, George said on Dec. 7 he was settling down to read the Sunday newspaper when the General Quarters alarm was sounded. That's when he realized there was an attack underway. After seeing a Japanese plane going down, his training kicked in and he began to act.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive at the USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, December 27, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry - RC126767B4E0

The USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (REUTERS)

With Japanese torpedoes striking Arizona, George recalled that the first thing he did, with help from several of his shipmates, was remove the awning covering the guns so that Vestal could fight back. Then he ran across the deck from fire to fire to help put them out.

There were "people over on the Arizona that were trying to get off, and there was fire all around," George said. "I threw a line over." 

Stratton's granddaughter, Nikki, says she owes her life, in addition to her grandfather's, to that young sailor's heroic actions.

We have four generations here because of that man. We have 14 people in our family who wouldn’t necessarily be here without Joe George,” said Nikki Stratton.

“We just kept asking, asking and asking and finally someone was able to dig through some of the archives and some of the interviews of the sailors about what happened that day and we found the name Joe George,” she said.

His family asked the Navy to investigate his rescue and dig up interviews from the sailors who were at Pearl Harbor. 

In 2001, Donald Stratton was attending his 60th reunion of Pearl Harbor survivors when he learned the identity of the man who rescued him. Sadly, Stratton never had a chance to thank his hero for saving his life. Joe George died in 1996.

“He saved six people's lives and he didn't get anything,” said Stratton in July. “Somebody in Washington should have the guts and honor to take care of that.”

“It is a wonderful thing my father did.  I am always overwhelmed by the story,” George’s daughter said. “Finding out what he did and how he did it – he did his duty, and it’s a shame he has never been recognized for it.”

The Stratton family has set up a website, USS Arizona Final Salute, to help defray costs of the trip to Washington and raise money for other USS Arizona survivors to attend a future reunion in Hawaii in December.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       SEE VIDEOS ;    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/12/07/pearl-harbor-hero-recognized-76-years-after-saving-6-from-sinking-uss-arizona.html

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