- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Top Navy officials laid a memorial wreath yesterday before the Lone Sailor Statue in memory and honor of the nearly 2,400 Americans who died when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 62 years ago.

“The importance of this ceremony is that it serves to remind us that liberty is not free,” said Rear Adm. Jan Cody Gaudio, commandant of Naval District Washington.

The Navy Band played dirges as the service’s Ceremonial Guard marched and carried the U.S. and Navy flags into the plaza at the Naval Heritage Center.

A double row of sailors, dressed in dark blue uniforms and white caps, formed an at-attention corridor to the statue in the 700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, in view of the U.S. Capitol.

“We honor their legacy,” said retired Rear Adm. Pierce J. Johnson, president of the Naval Memorial Foundation.

Freezing temperatures and a northern wind buffeted about three dozen men and women in civilian clothes who stood silently and respectfully through the brief service.

“We would have been out here in blowing rain,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert A. Rearick, a Navy chaplain from Arlington National Cemetery who conducted the prayer.

The ceremony included no details about Japan’s bombing of Hawaii on December 7, 1941, which President Roosevelt declared a day of “infamy.”

Japanese bombers and fighter planes struck American forces in Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. The enemy sank or damaged 19 ships, including the USS Arizona, which still rests at the bottom of the harbor with 1,177-member crew entombed inside.

About 320 aircraft also were damaged or destroyed. In all, 2,388 people were killed, and 1,177 were wounded.

“This is a day of reminder for us, the Navy and Marines,” Adm. Gaudio said. “Nine-eleven reminds us of the war we are in today.”

Adm. Johnson compared Pearl Harbor day to September 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

“Each of us remembers exactly what we were doing,” he said.

In Hawaii yesterday, an aging and dwindling group of Pearl Harbor survivors gathered under a giant American flag that flew at half-staff under a cloudy sky.

“I’m getting too old to have feelings,” said Leo Fitzek, 91, who was a radio operator on Ford Island, next to the harbor’s Battleship Row, at the time of the attack.

About 250 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial, where representatives of veterans and military groups dropped anthuriums and plumerias onto the water.

“The actions of those enemies may forever live in infamy,” said Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. “But the valor of our citizens lives more boldly in our history.”

William Cope, 90, was a B-17 pilot at Hickam Air Force Base during the attack. “You always remember,” he said.

On the other side of the harbor, hundreds gathered at another service, which included a speech by Ernest Borgnine, the Oscar-winning actor whose role in “From Here to Eternity” won him the invitation to the service that was titled “Hollywood Remembers Pearl Harbor.”

In separate ceremonies on Sunday, two men who were aboard ships in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack were being buried at sea.

Elsewhere across the country, veterans groups planned candlelight ceremonies in New York, Chicago and Atlanta to honor Pearl Harbor victims.

This year’s rather subdued observances were similar to those last year, but were far different from 2001, when the 60th anniversary and its parallels with the September 11 terrorist attacks drew thousands to Hawaii.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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