- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — A bridge overlooking the Severn River was dedicated yesterday as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge.

The ceremony marked the 65th anniversary of the Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Harbor and a roughly 10-year effort by the Maryland chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association to find a suitable dedication site.

Group members wanted the Route 50 bridge, commonly called the Severn River Bridge, because it is near the Maryland World War II Memorial, which overlooks the U.S. Naval Academy and where a Pearl Harbor memorial was added several years ago.

“We didn’t have time to be scared,” recalled Ray Jams. He was among 10 Pearl Harbor survivors who attended the ceremony.

Mr. Jams who was 18 when Japanese bombers attacked December 7, 1941. “I saw this whole ball of fire. I thought maybe one of our stations had a fuel problem.”

The ceremony yesterday included a wreath-laying at the memorial and a bugler playing taps at 12:55 p.m., which was 7:55 a.m. Pearl Harbor time, when the attacks occurred.

The State Highway Administration unveiled bronze plaques at the bridge ends that read: “Dedicated as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge — Scenic River Bridge.

“It was a horrible day,” said state Sen. John C. Astle, an Anne Arundel Democrat who helped the veterans with the dedication efforts. “Every man who was there was a hero.”

Records show 2,390 service members and civilians were killed in the surprise attack.

Mr. Astle, a Vietnam veteran, said 15 military survivors received the Medal of Honor.

Henry W. Rapalus, 83, of Rockville, was in the ammunition and powder rooms four floors below deck when he received orders in code to send up ammunition. Because of the code, he was delayed in the assignment but finally an officer said, “Get it? We’re at war.”

Roger K. Thomas, 87, of Frederick, a radioman, recalled that an enemy submarine was discovered one mile south of Pearl Harbor at 6:45 a.m., but “It didn’t cause any excitement then” because there had been no warning of an enemy attack.

“That night was horrible,” he said. “All you could hear was gunfire.”

Jack Wagner, 88, of Bowie, was a member of the Army Air Corps and on duty when the attacks started. As he was running for cover, he saw a wounded serviceman on the ground.

“I ran to him and picked him up,” Mr. Wagner recalled. “I ran and threw him into a ditch, then jumped in on top of him.”

Mr. Wagner, who remained in the service and flew 60 combat missions over Europe, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The master of ceremonies yesterday was Robert Vandruff, who also was in Pearl Harbor. He remained in the Navy after the attacks and was on a ship ready to invade Japan when U.S. bombers ended the war by dropping two nuclear bombs on the island.

“You belong to a great country,” Mr. Vandruff told the roughly 150 people who attended the ceremony.

Mr. Astle said the attacks unified the country, “but now there is 9/11. …This world is a dangerous place.”

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