- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

BALTIMORE — The dwindling fraternity of surviving Pearl Harbor veterans was honored yesterday aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney, the last surviving warship from the Japanese attack 65 years ago.

The annual ceremony marking the anniversary of Pearl Harbor took on added poignancy when a bell aboard the ship rang for each of seven Maryland Pearl Harbor veterans who died in the past year. Four veterans from the Maryland chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association attended the ceremony.

“Most of the states now have given up” their chapters, said Army veteran Edward T. Robinson, 85. “They’ve run out of people.”

About 980 World War II veterans are dying every day, down from an average of nearly 1,170 per day in 2000, said Jim Benson, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The total number of surviving veterans from the conflict is expected to dip below 3 million next year.

Despite the passage of time, veterans who served at Pearl Harbor retain vivid memories of the attack.

“I watched the [USS] Oklahoma take at least seven torpedoes. She literally jumped out of the water,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s something I’ll never forget, a battleship coming out of the water like that.”

The Taney, commissioned in October 1936, was named after Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, a Calvert County native. It was moored in downtown Honolulu when the attack began, and it was one of the first ships to return fire on Japanese planes. It also is credited with saving the only power plant on the island of Oahu.

The ship was decommissioned Dec. 7, 1986, and now serves as a floating museum.

A Maryland Army National Guard helicopter flew low alongside the Taney amid gusty winds and dropped a wreath in the harbor, followed by a 21-gun salute by the Coast Guard Honor Guard. A bugler from the Navy Band played taps.

Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley, whose late father flew 33 missions over Japan, thanked veterans for their bravery in the nation’s darkest hours.

“The most important days in America’s history are not the easy days,” Mr. O’Malley said. “They’re the difficult and sad days.”

Marine veteran Thomas Talbott, 85, said he expected to be around to mark the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor — and beyond.

“I’m going to live to be 100,” said Mr. Talbott, whose mother died at 96. “My mom said, ‘If you were born to die in the war, you die there. If not, you’ll live forever.’ Life gets better every day.”

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