78 years ago, bombs fell on Pearl Harbor; vets paused to remember the tragic day
At Pearl Harbor Saturday, waters were calm and skies were clear as dozens paused to remember a tragic attack on U.S. soil 78 years ago.
The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony began promptly at 7:50 a.m. at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. At 7:55, a moment of silence was held to mark the time the bombs hit from Japanese forces.
A few of the remaining survivors of the attack, including Lou Conter, were in attendance.
“I always come out to pay respect for the 2,403 men that were killed that day, including 1,177 of my shipmates on the Arizona,” he told Hawaii News Now upon his arrival in the islands.
“We were highly trained for war. We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when,” Conter said, decked out in full Navy uniform and an orchid lei. “Everybody did their job well.”
Conter recalled the chaos that ensued the morning of the attack.
“We were on a ship after it blew up for about 40 minutes,” he said. “Guys coming out of the fire and they wanted to jump over the side and the water was all flame.”
“We all did our job and tried to get it over,” he added.
The surprise Pearl Harbor attack on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, dealt America a historic blow. When the last Japanese fighter planes left Hawaii skies — two hours and 20 minutes after the attack had started — 2,403 Americans were dead, the Pacific Fleet was in ruins, and the United States was thrown into WWII.
“Glimmers of Victory” was the theme of this year’s 78th commemoration. Wreaths were presented by representatives of the national parks alongside service members of the various armed forces in a tribute to the lives lost in the attack, and an homage to the armed forces around the world.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, the First Lady and other dignitaries were in attendance. Also scattered throughout the crowd were family members of veterans and other servicemen and women.
Conter is among the few remaining veterans able to attend the ceremony with family members. Many often talk with him about his time in service.
“For the whole week, he’s kind of like a rock star. We just step back, let him have the limelight, and we just enjoy it,” Jim Conter said about his father, Lou.
“Every son or daughter thinks their dad’s a hero, (but) we’re lucky, he’s also an American hero,” Jim said.
The ceremony included remarks from retired Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., ambassador to South Korea and former commander of U.S. Pacific Command. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt also spoke to the crowd.
Following the Pearl Harbor ceremony, a separate somber gathering was planned.
Divers were set to place veteran Lauren Bruner’s ashes inside the USS Arizona wreckage.
The Southern California man was the second-to-last man to escape the burning wreckage of the USS Arizona. He’s the 44th and last crew member to be interred in accordance with this rare Navy ritual.
The last three living Arizona survivors plan to be laid to rest with their families.