Pearl Harbor Vets Due Special Honor
Brady, R. H., VFW Magazine
Ashes of survivors in the attack on Pearl Harbor can be spread on nearby waters. Here's how it's done.
In 1941, the world was in turmoil. Germany was attacking its neighbors iri Europe. Asia was reeling under the aggression of Japan. Citizens of neutral nations, including Americans, were scrambling to escape the terror and make their way to safety.
Then, on Dec. 7 of that year, the United States was jarred into action by the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Suddenly, America was an integral part of the war, pouring its youth and materiel onto remote battlefields in heretofore unheard-of places around the globe.
Less than four years later, the war was over. Yet the nation has never forgotten the heartbreaks, the deprivations and the sacrifices of those years. In particular, we have never forgotten the shocking horror of that Sunday morning so many years ago when 2,402 Americans lost their lives to tyranny in and around Pearl Harbor.
Throughout the intervening years, untold millions have visited the nowtranquil waters of Pearl Harbor. Many have gone to learn and to honor those who fought there-and those who died there. But many others have gone to remember, for they are the ones who fought and survived there.
With advancing age, survivors are now reaching their evening years of life. The National Park Service, which administers the USS Arizona Memorial, has long honored those who survived the attack aboard the Arizona that day.
Some survivors have requested that their remains be lowered into the hull of the ship after their deaths so they might rejoin the more than 1,100 of their shipmates who died in the attack. Their requests have been honored with fitting ceremonies. The same is true for survivors who were aboard USS Utah, hidden away on the opposite side of Ford Island.
EQUITY FOR ALL
But what of the thousands more who fought through the attack on other ships or locations in the harbor? In glaring inequity, no such honor was available to them until now.
In July 1995, almost 50 years after the war ended, the U.S. Navy enacted a regulation which now permits the ashes of survivors of the attack to be spread on the waters of Pearl Harbor.
The first such survivor was honored in April 1996. Geryl F. Wells of Pine Valley, N.Y., had already died. He had told his wife Rosemarie of his desire to be returned to Pearl Harbor. So she contacted officials at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Plans were made to honor his wish, and she flew to Hawaii to be present for the ceremony. …