Pearl Harbor survivors gather at USS Hornet museum

December 7, 2011 5:47:35 PM PST
The attack on Pearl Harbor is being remembered in ceremonies around the Bay Area. In Alameda, survivors of the USS Hornet gathered to remember the day.

To remember fallen comrades, a wreath was thrown into the water followed by Taps -- remembering and respecting this day 70 years later, the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor.

Lives lost, ships destroyed -- it changed the world.

Pearl Harbor survivors and retired military gathered for ceremonies on the USS Hornet museum. One of the men, Owen Smith of Castro Valley, was on a cruiser docked at Pearl Harbor on that horrific Sunday morning.

"I was on my way to church when it all started," Smith said. "Instead of going to church, we went to our battle stations."

Smith manned an anti-aircraft gun as chaos, fire, smoke and explosions surrounded them.

"We were in the middle of the whole thing the whole morning," Smith said. "We looked up and (saw) the masts of the battle ships. They were, by then, starting to tip over, very uneven and all."

Smith still remembers it vividly.

There are many who call September 11 the Pearl Harbor of a later generation: The US under attack and how we had to respond. Commanding Officer Jim Ridgway said there are parallels.

"Only through learning about the past, striving to prevent repeating the same mistakes and honoring those who have given so much will we become worthy of their memories," said Ridgway.

We still hear the stories and admire the fearlessness off the survivors, but each year there are fewer and fewer of them. It's why the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, dedicated to preserving the memory of that day, will go out of business on Jan. 1.

Age has taken a bigger toll than torpedoes and gunfire.


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