- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sixty-seven years after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Edward K. Walker Jr. of Alexandria still “vividly” remembers watching the bombs fall, with little understanding then of the infamous role the event would play in history.

“I just climbed up on the roof to see what was happening, much to my mother’s consternation,” said Mr. Walker, who was 9 at the time. “I didn’t really know what was happening. I just thought it was interesting to watch.”

Mr. Walker, the son of a naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, later spent 38 years in the Navy, retiring in 1988 as a rear admiral.

He is one of a dwindling number of people who witnessed the forces of Imperial Japan nearly deliver their intended knockout blow to the U.S. Pacific Fleet at its Hawaiian base on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. Some of them will be present for the annual wreath-laying at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in remembrance of those who died.

While Mr. Walker was just a boy, former Commander John Budzik was 25 then, and he can remember feeling the fear sparked by the shocking attack that pushed the United States into World War II.

Mr. Budzik, 92, was awakened early that morning by the first wave of attacks, mostly from torpedo bombers, and immediately rushed to his post at Honolulu Harbor, about 10 miles away from Pearl Harbor, where he was in charge of opening and closing the gates for entering submarines.

“It was just frightening,” said Mr. Budzik. “We didn’t know if there would be any more attacks or where they would come from. It was a very scary experience.”

After the attack, Mr. Budzik was made commanding officer of the USS Ash, where he was in charge of placing and maintaining anti-submarine and anti-torpedo nets in harbors around the Hawaiian, Midway and New Caledonia islands. Mr. Budzik eventually would command another ship, the USS Abele, to Iwo Jima, where he would witness the famous flag-raising.

Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremonies, such as today’s, are always bittersweet for Mr. Budzik. They remind him of the people he knew who died that day, but also of the success the United States attained after the war, he said.

“There are so many stories that do not get told here,” said Kathleen Martin, the chief executive officer of the Vinson Hall Retirement Community, where Mr. Budzik lives, and a former deputy surgeon general of the Navy. “Not just people telling their war stories. If you mention Pearl Harbor around here, you will learn all kinds of things you can’t read in the history books.”

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