ST. GEORGE – As the commemoration ceremony of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor came to a close Wednesday at Tonaquint Cemetery, a bald eagle gracefully circled above. Gasps of admiration were audible and those in attendance were in awe that the “nation’s bird” would appear in the sky on Dec. 7.
It has been 75 years since American skies were filled, not with the sight of a majestic bird of prey, but of war birds bent on destruction. There were 2,403 killed and 1,178 wounded, along with four American battleships sunk and nearly 350 aircraft damaged or completely destroyed in the attack that began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaii time on Dec. 7, 1941, a previous news release said.
The attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into World War II but it also acted as a catalyst to unify the United States, said WW II veteran, Ridge Bemis.
“One of the few events in history that brought the country together, truly,” Bemis said. “The women at home, you know, all the defense effort, the arsenal of democracy was created. That was the great generation.”
Wednesday’s ceremony was called a “silent ceremony” by American Legion Post 90 Commander Marti Bigbie because there are no known survivors of Pearl Harbor living in the St. George area, she said.
A piece of Pearl Harbor history was on display during Wednesday’s ceremony thanks to Bob Burt, a retired director of operations for the USS Bowfin 287 in Pearl Harbor from 1987-2010. Burt has a certified piece of the USS Arizona and brought it to the ceremony to share with the veterans in attendance.
“I decided to bring it out here today to this ceremony,” Burt said, “so some of the vets could touch it, feel it and reminisce.”
As “the greatest generation” gets older and passes on there are fewer and fewer veterans left to tell the history of World War II and, Burt said, for the sake of the next generation it is crucial that Pearl Harbor is never forgotten.
“It’s not taught as much in school now days,” Burt said. “It’s probably a part of history that needs to be remembered.”
It is a history that has deep roots in Burt’s family. Before the attack, Burt’s father was preparing a celebration for Burt’s mother’s 21st birthday – Dec. 8, 1941.
“When the bombing happened everything stopped,” Burt said. “Monday morning, Dec. 8 on her birthday, he went down, joined the army and headed for Germany.”
It is because so many families were affected by the events at Pearl Harbor and during World War II that Bigbie believes it is important to remember and to teach children what happened, she said.
The short ceremony began precisely at 10:48 a.m. to coincide with the exact time of the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago (7:48 a.m. Hawaii time) . A prayer was said, followed by a haunting and beautiful rendition of taps. A rifle salute was given and a commemorative wreath was placed at the Pearl Harbor memorial located in Tonaquint Cemetery.
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