Thousands attended a ceremony Monday morning commemorating the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II.
This year’s event, however, was different from years past. The observance of the 1941 attack was held on base instead of at the visitors center.
Officials called it a dry-run for next year’s 75th anniversary, when thousands more are expected to attend.
The venue may have been different, but the ceremony was as moving and powerful as ever.
This was 96-year-old Nelson Mitchell’s first time back in Hawaii since serving in the Navy on that day decades ago when Japanese military aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor.
“I had no desire to come back,” he said, “but since this is the last time and last opportunity to position me to come on back, I’m glad to see all this old generation.”
But there was one survivor who couldn’t make it to the ceremony. Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Joe Langdell was 100 and the oldest attack survivor.
Instead, his son John placed his father’s remains at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. “He said his last wish when I last saw him was ‘I want to be buried with my shipmates on the Arizona.’ I said, ‘I know, Dad. That’s what we’ll do.’ It was a fitting end to a long life.”
Organizers say nearly 2,500 made it to the commemoration this year. They expect about 6,000 to show up for next year’s 75th anniversary.
And 93-year-old survivor Tom Berg said he’ll be back.
“It’s a great honor to still be alive and still be here. I come here every year. I’ll be coming for the next 10 years.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,400 Americans. Half the U.S. fleet was lost and all 8 battleships that were in dock were damaged or destroyed.