- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

The faithful across America will stand today and salute, their eyes on the flag but their hearts at Pearl Harbor. It has become a sacred place: One desperate morning six decades ago, the sparkling Hawaiian inlet became the flash point for U.S. entry into a world war and the tomb of 2,403 in less than two hours.
And the faithful have come back to Pearl. At precisely 7:53 this morning, survivors and their families will fall silent at water's edge on the south side of Oahu, marking the exact time and place that Japanese planes attacked the Pacific fleet December 7, 1941.
Some will look skyward. Others will peer down at the old turrets and hatchways of the USS Arizona, destroyed by an armor-piercing shell from a Japanese bomber 15 minutes into the attack, and now an underwater memorial.
"Look down in the water at the sunken ship and realize that only a few feet from you, there's over a thousand sailors looking back at you and saying, 'We took the first shot,'" notes Richard E. Burge, who served aboard the USS Tennessee. An attack plane flew so close he could see the smiling machine gunner's teeth, he recalled.
Things change.
Thousands of Pearl Harbor survivors and their families will be joined by 50 members of the Japanese Zero Pilots Association for a ceremonial handshake and a memorial service. There will be a color guard, brass band, an F-15 flyover, an "attack" bus tour and some eerie new videos taken by robot submarine cameras of the USS Arizona, now considered a "submerged cultural resource" by the National Park Service.
But visitors can bring "no bags, purses, diaper bags or other containers that could conceal items," the National Park Service advises. This is, after all, still a post-September 11 world.
Those terrorist attacks have raised the appreciation of Pearl Harbor around the globe, however.
"All week long, reporters and TV people from East Coast to West Coast, from so many foreign countries, all wanting interviews. It's been nonstop," said Julius Finnern, national secretary of the 7,500-member, Wisconsin-based Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "And last Sunday, we had 300 people above and beyond our military folks at the memorial service here. Just an incredible turnout."
It was not always thus.
"There were plenty of years where nobody came, nobody called, nobody cared. The press was too scared of embarrassing Japan back then," said Mr. Finnern, 82, who was earning 75 cents a day as an apprentice seaman aboard the USS Monaghan, a destroyer that rammed and sank a Japanese submarine during the December 7 attack.
Indeed, Pearl Harbor is the theme of choice in the media today, including live broadcasts on cable news networks and the History Channel, and multiple specials.
"The patriotism of that era, we're seeing a lot of that again," said Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced Hollywood's $140 million "Pearl Harbor" earlier this year. "The military is looked at much differently since September 11."
Pearl Harbor survivor Mr. Finnern is reluctant to compare the two sneak attacks, however.
"I hate to say it, but 9/11 is not December 7. We've got to keep them separate until the final history of the twin towers and Pentagon attacks are written," he said. "We don't know yet how the story will end. We don't know what the history will be."
Historians are already at work, though, drawing up comparative lists of attitudes, newspaper headlines and national reactions then and now. Both events have been billed as a national "wake-up call" and "galvanizing force," among other things.
Yesterday, the Center for the Study of the Presidency released a scholarly study examining lessons learned, noting, "The events of December 7 and September 11 challenge the presidency to think outside the box. … The United States can move from inherited Cold War rigidity to greater capabilities of anticipation, agility and integration of power and influence."
As for Mr. Finnern, he and his wife will spend today in Fredericksburg, Texas, joining former President George Bush and other luminaries at the National Museum of the Pacific War for commemorative events, a flyover of vintage aircraft and a heroes parade.
"I am a proud American. But I am no hero," Mr. Finnern said. "I was a combat sailor, doing the job I was trained to do that day," he said. "And I know that the rescue and fire workers from 9/11 know just what I'm talking about."

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