HONOLULU (KHON2) — December 7, 1941, is the date that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened in Hawaii that got the United States involved in WWII.
78 years later, the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack is remembered in ceremony in 2019.
One of the remaining three USS Arizona survivors was honored during the ceremony and spoke about that day 78 years ago.
Lou Conter, 98, said he remembers Dec. 7, 1941, vividly.
“We were highly trained for war,” he said. “We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when.”
“We were on the ship after it blew up for about 40 minutes. There were guys coming out on fire and they wanted to jump over the side,” Conter said.
He said his commander told him not to let the men jump into the water.
“The water was all flames, so he [commander] said, ‘Lay them all on the deck even if you have to knock them unconscious until we get them to the hospital,’ So we did our job,” Conter said.
Conter has come to every ceremony on Dec. 7 but missed last year’s event due to illness.
“I come to pay honor to the men we lost that day, including 1,177 of my shipmates on the Arizona,” he added.
Conter’s fellow shipmate Lauren Bruner died earlier this year. In a special ceremony that will be held this evening, Bruner will be the last USS Arizona survivor laid to rest with his shipmates.
About 40 WWII veterans were on stage Saturday morning.
Thirteen were Pearl Harbor survivors.
For decades, survivor Jack Holder never told his story. He was at Ford Island when the first bomb fell on the hangar next to him.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, those things you don’t forget,” he said. “We began roll call and we heard screaming aircraft and moments later a terrible explosion. We ran outside and saw that the hangar beside us received the first bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor.”
He said half the planes were on fire.
“The sky was full of aircraft with the rising sun insignia. We knew immediately what had happened,” Holder said.
He and fellow shipmates jumped into a ditch nearby.
“When the first wave was over, we came out of the ditch and I saw devastation that I’ll never forget. The Arizona, West Virginia, Tennessee, Nevada, California, I saw the Oklahoma turn turtle up,” he said.
“I saw sailors jumping off their ships, swimming through burning oil in the water. Some died in the water, some died when they reached the beach, and some made it,” Holder said.
The survivors were honored with speeches from the Secretary of the Interior and US Ambassador to South Korea, referring to the veterans and those who have passed as “the Greatest Generation.”
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released the following statement on the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Seventy-eight years ago, more than 2,400 American patriots lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. Today, we remember their service, salute their heroism, and honor their families. We also give thanks to the veterans and survivors who answered the call to defend our nation. The Greatest Generation faced one of the darkest moments in human history with bravery and resolve. They achieved what President Roosevelt foretold would be their inevitable triumph: they defeated the forces of tyranny and secured freedom for all the generations that followed. Let us draw from their strength, learn from their love of country, and always strive to live up to their example.”
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation for the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Seventy-eight years ago today, the course of our Nation’s history was forever altered by the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we solemnly remember the tragic events of that morning and honor those who perished in defense of our Nation that day and in the ensuing 4 years of war.”
Click here to read the entire Presidential Proclamation on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2019.
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