The infamous surprise attack by Japanese naval forces on Pearl Harbor and Wheeler Army Airfield on a peaceful Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, was remembered Friday during a special ceremony sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46 at the American Legion Post 168 in Hinesville.
Donald Spencer, DAV Chapter 46 vice commander, welcomed guests to the ceremony, thanking 3rd Infantry Division’s Lt. Col. John Allen, deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, for serving as guest speaker, and Bradwell Institute’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets for their participation and support.
“Just for the record, I personally volunteered to be guest speaker for this ceremony,” Allen told a room filled with veterans. “I served with the 24th Infantry Division here at Fort Stewart and the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, but both these divisions were there that day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.”
Allen said he didn’t want to focus on the tragedies of that day, the more than 2,400 killed and nearly 1,300 wounded, including 68 civilians. He said he wanted to talk about what didn’t happen that day of a “massively planned attack,” which he compared to the Allied Force attack on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The difference, he said, was although “the 110-minute surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor followed months of detailed planning, the Japanese military failed to achieve their objectives. Allen said they failed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, fuel depots and dry docks. And though 21 ships were sank or severely damaged, all but three were repaired and returned to service, taking the war back to the enemy.
He added that four or five Japanese mini-submarines were sank by U.S. forces, and between the anti-aircraft guns firing from the burning ships and U.S planes that got off the ground at Wheeler Army Airfield, 29 Japanese planes were shot down during the attack.
After noting that 15 American servicemen received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their selfless heroic acts during the attack, he read the account of a Navy lieutenant who repeatedly risked his life to direct anti-aircraft fire and got sailors off the sinking vessel he was on.
“In today’s Army, folks, that ranks a ‘hooah,’” Allen said. “This nation ... will always rise to the occasion when called into action.”
Following Allen’s remarks, the ceremonial ringing of the bell rang one time for each year of the war that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor: 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945.
In his own remarks, DAV Chapter 46 commander Walter Helmick thanked Allen for his service and for speaking during the ceremony. He also recognized DAV member Paul Spence for his support and efforts to make the day’s ceremony possible.
Local veteran Graydon H. Martin, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, talked about his service that began near the end of the “great war” and continued through the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“I didn’t go into the war until February 1945,” said Martin. “I was with the 300th Medical Detachment in Germany. I was sent to Korea in 1950 and Vietnam in 1960. In Vietnam, I was called a ‘bird dog’ by the general, who had me going all over that country.”
The now wheelchair-bound Martin, who spent most of his military career as an engineer, said he was wounded in Vietnam. His military career ended less than a year later, he said.