- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

BALTIMORE — Five survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks who attended an anniversary ceremony yesterday at the Inner Harbor said the cold drizzle and fog was nothing like that day 63 years ago.

“It was a beautiful morning,” recalled Army veteran Edward T. Robertson.

Mr. Robertson, 83, said he had been riding his motorcycle from the barracks at Fort Shafter to a control tower at the Army’s Hickam Field where he saw Japanese planes approach.

“We knew what they were,” he said. “Then all hell broke loose.”

His recollections were just part of the annual Inner Harbor commemoration aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Taney, the only warship from Pearl Harbor still afloat.

The ship was commissioned Oct. 24, 1936, and named after Roger B. Taney, who was appointed chief justice of the United States in 1836. It was decommissioned December 7, 1986.

Mr. Robertson and the four other survivors helped cast a wreath of flowers into the water from Taney’s fantail — the highlight of the ceremony.

“These are great Americans,” said Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “You are our mentors.”

The attack on the Hawaiian naval port by Japanese pilots killed 2,403 Americans, injured about 1,200, destroyed or damaged more than 300 aircraft, and sank or damaged 21 ships.

The survivors said most died in the first 20 minutes of the attack.

Gen. Blum reminded the about 200 people who attended the ceremony yesterday that Pearl Harbor was not the last surprise assault on the United States and that 122,000 National Guard men and women are among those fighting in 44 countries and preparing at home to foil any other attack.

“We are a nation at war today. If we are not ready, we will have another Pearl Harbor, another 9/11,” said Gen. Blum, referring to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that killed more than 3,000 people.

The ceremony also included tapsplayed by a U.S. Navy Band bugler, a 21-gun salute by a Coast Guard honor unit and a performance by members of the Baltimore St. Andrew’s Society, wearing Scottish Highlander garb.

The other survivors at the ceremony were Charles Townsend, Vincent Cardinale, Stanley Gunther and Warren Coligny.

Mr. Coligny, 83, a Laurel resident for 41 years, cried during the ceremony.

He had been aboard the USS Zane, which saw service as both a destroyer and minesweeper, preparing to return to the United States on Monday, Dec. 8.

Mr. Coligny said most of the crew had gone ashore before the attack, but he was on duty.

“The [Japanese] were just flying right over us,” he said. “They just waved as they went by.”

Mr. Coligny said he had been trying to fire up two 50-caliber machine guns but first had to use a bolt cutter to break a lock and get bullets.

Mr. Robertson, who lives in Rosedale, Md., said that upon his return to Fort Shafter that day he passed the naval base and saw the U.S. warships bobbing and sinking.

When he saw sailors jumping overboard and drowning, Mr. Robertson, who had been on swim teams, dived in to save them.

“Four or five of my friends were missing, so I was very lucky,” Mr. Robertson said. “It was a long day.”

Mr. Robertson, who continued to fight in World War II, was stabbed in the right leg by a Japanese bayonet, but said he did not ask for a Purple Heart medal.

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