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‘The ones who gave everything’: Remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor, 80 years ago (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Heavy rain in Hawaii didn’t stop the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony Tuesday, where Kahu Kordell Kekoa was seen giving the Hawaiian blessing over the waters of the harbor. The bodies of 900 sailors from the USS Arizona remain in the Pearl Harbor wreckage following the attack on Oahu the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Photo: Elias Funez

OAHU — Torrential rainfall pummeling the Hawaiian islands seemed to set a somber mood during Tuesday’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony, marking the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

The attack thrust the United States into World War II and bestowed the title of the Greatest Generation upon those of that time.

“What a beautiful day it is today,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said as he addressed the hundreds of World War II veterans and their families as the keynote speaker of the ceremony.



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“You may say it’s raining out and it’s cloudy, but I don’t see the rain and I don’t see the clouds. I see the shining spirit of all of those who lost their lives in 1941, shining down on us today, thanking us for memorializing their lives and their sacrifice.”

The resulting attack on Oahu began at 7:55 a.m. that morning and killed a total of 2,403 servicemen and women, including civilians. At eight or nine minutes past 8 a.m., a 1,760-pound armor piercing bomb hit behind Turret No. 2 of the USS Arizona. The explosion and the resulting fire took the lives of 1,177 on board, with the bodies of at least 900 remaining in the ship’s wreckage.



CONTER

Lou Conter, Grass Valley resident and one of two living survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona, was unable to make this year’s trip to Pearl Harbor due to a medical procedure, though his presence was still felt when a broadcast of his voice was played for the hundreds in attendance.

“I was aboard the USS Arizona that morning and witnessed the awful destruction that occurred,” Conter’s voice said during the broadcast.

“I was grateful to have survived and to have had the opportunity to serve throughout World War II. But for thousands of people, the first day of the war was also the last that they saw of it.

Lou Conter and Mary Johansen stand in Conter’s living room at his home in Grass Valley this week following a recent surgical procedure that has him feeling better than before.
Courtesy photo

“Millions of Americans were mobilized overnight, traveling thousands of miles to answer the call,” he continued. “Many took on roles that they had never dreamed of. Some of them who had never stepped foot off their city limits were now across seas. The war introduced a new realm of possibilities and opportunities that hadn’t been available before, but also terrible dangers that tested our character at every turn. Our generation faced those possibilities head on with valor and solace. Far from home we went above and beyond the call of duty, often making the ultimate sacrifice for our fellow Americans. Those efforts not only earned the title of the Greatest Generation, but also set a new standard of service for those who would follow. It is a great honor to recognize the men and women who were a part of this history. And especially those who didn’t get to see the legacy they would leave behind. Before I finish this I want to say, of the 2,403 servicemen that fell that day, 1,177 of my shipmates aboard the USS Arizona, God bless you. Today remains behind to those men. A lot of people call us heroes, but we’re really not heroes. The ones who gave everything, their lives, are the heroes.”

Once the flames of the burning USS Arizona died down, Conter and others spent five days diving into the wreckage of their ship, recovering the bodies of more than 100 of their fellow servicemen before the recovery efforts were called off.

Hundreds of World War II veterans were brought to Tuesday’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Photo: Elias Funez

“It wasn’t like anything I had ever done before,” Conter said of the experience.

Conter, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, had been looking forward to returning to Pearl Harbor for the 80th anniversary, but was told to stay back due to a surgical procedure.

“I’ve been out since the day before Thanksgiving, laying here like this or in the bed,” Conter said last week from his living room chair.

World War II veterans, the last of the Greatest Generation, and their family members salute during the playing of the United States National Anthem during Tuesday’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Photo: Elias Funez

Conter’s surgical procedure went as scheduled Friday, and he returned home from the hospital on Sunday and is now feeling better than before.

“It was two-and-a-half hours of a three-and-a-half year war,” Conter said of America’s involvement in World War II following Dec. 7.

He watched Tuesday’s ceremony with family in Grass Valley.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230


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