The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Disbands

I always find it poignant to hear about the passing away of my grandfather’s generation. So it was with heavy heart that I read this week’s article in the NYT about the disbanding of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this will be the final anniversary marked by the association, which will disband on Dec. 31. Because of deaths, illness, and old age, there aren’t enough survivors to keep things going. The association was started in 1958 with 28,000 members; there are now just over 2,700 left, although that number is likely exaggerated.

It’s hard for the remaining survivors to see this happen, especially because it means there are fewer of them to tell their tale firsthand:

The fact that this moment was inevitable has made this no less a difficult year for the survivors, some of whom are concerned that the event that defined their lives will soon be just another chapter in a history book, with no one left to go to schools and Rotary Club luncheons to offer a firsthand testimony of that day. As it is, speaking engagements by survivors like Mr. Kerr — who said he would miss church services on Sunday to commemorate the attack — can be discouraging affairs.

“I was talking in a school two years ago, and I was being introduced by a male teacher, and he said, ‘Mr. Kerr will be talking about Pearl Harbor,’ ” said Mr. Kerr. “And one of these little girls said, ‘Pearl Harbor? Who is she?’

“Can you imagine?” he said.

Read the whole article: “Pearl Harbor Still a Day for the Ages, but a Memory Almost Gone” (@NYT)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Johnnie December 8, 2011 at 9:13 am

These were true heroes. It was a sad day for me yesterday to hear the Association was disbanding, but of even more concern was the fact that our schools didn’t recognize the significance of the day. Political correctness would not allow it. I discussed Pesrl Harbor with my second grader. He may not be old enough to understand everything about this day and the sacrifice these men made, but I can start teaching him about it. If we don’t teach our children about real hero’s, they will wind up idolizing actors or athletes.

Ralph Widmann December 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm

This announcement effects me deeply…as I lost an uncle on the USS”California” that day..an uncle I never had a chance to know.

Jason December 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

It’s a shame that so many from the Greatest Generation pass away each year. The spirit of sacrifice they embodied is sorely needed today.

Shoubhik D. December 9, 2011 at 12:17 am

We all owe these gentlemen a great deal! They didn’t fight to save a country, they fought and died to save the world. In a world where cocaine-sniffing, hotel-trashing “popstars” are heroes, we need the story of these men and their times to be publicised widely.

Kyle December 9, 2011 at 6:30 am

This truely is sad news. I remember when I was in my senior year of high school we talked about Pearl Harbor for 1 class period that week basically 1 hour then didn’t touch ever again. I was angered and dissapointed because my great grandfather is still entombed in the USS Arizona. There’s so much that we owe these great men but schools are slowly pushing it to extinction and not talking about it.

Chris December 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm

It is sad to hear that the survivors are disbanding. I guess even Heros need to rest. My grandfather served during WWII. If you asked him questions about it he would gladly answer them. But he would never initiate a conversation. He was a tobacco farmer. When the time came to serve came he did. When it was over he came home and went back to the field. He was very proud of this country. He did what he did because it was right. Not because there was any money or schooling that would be paid for. Just because that is what you did. I do miss Papa. He was not a very big man in stature but he embodied everything that a man should be. If you know someone from that generation who served no matter how frail and weak their bodies may be now. Shake his hand and thank him. He very well may be the last real man you get to come in contact with for a while.

leroy boren December 10, 2011 at 2:54 am

My Grandfather died in the last decade; he was entombed at Arlington National Cemetery. All he spoke of was WWII and Korea. He was a great guy, and I loved his stories even when everyone else ignored him because they had heard them all before. He was a good man, became a commissioned officer by way of survival and leadership. We should reflect on our past, but we should apply the values and possibilities of the human soul to our present and rely upon such strength for our future.

Frank December 10, 2011 at 11:40 am

My Dad celebrated his 90th last October. He is the oldest of 4 brothers and the oldest of the 3 who served during WWII. (The other 2 have already passed on).

Their stories need to be documented.

A co-worker showed me a page and a half write up by his FILaw. He told of getting up early to get the work he had to do done early so he could get a shore pass. As he was working, he saw what he thought was a “damn stupid” pilot flying fast and low into the harbor.

As it went past him, he saw the Japanese markings and one of the crew members made eye contact with him, smiled, and waved.

He said he figured he saw the first torpedo plane enter Pearl Harbor.

He went on to talk about what he did that and the next couple of days. Then the rest was a short blurb about how his cargo ship had good chow but sailed from tedium to boredom and back.

Like I noted above, their stories need to be documented. If they haven’t done like my friends FILaw did – do it.

FF

Charles December 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I was thoroughly disappointed in the remembrance of Pearl Harbour this year. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I even almost forgot. And Frank is right-these stories need to be documented, so we as a species can learn from our mistakes. And speaking of Frank, that’s a pretty badass story.

Sammy December 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm

To say thank you to this group of people seems so empty. How can you thank someone for all the freedoms and prosperity that you have enjoyed your entire life? The only way I know it to show the same kind of courage and commitment to the American way of life. A commitment to every other American and to the world. May God bless these individuals with peace and happiness for the rest of their lives so that they never have to see or feel the pain already dealt with in their lives.

Michael December 11, 2011 at 3:14 am

I participated in a wreath laying ceremony today for all our fallen service members today as the Color Guard Commander in Ft.Bliss and there was a Pearl Harbor survivor at the cemetery today. I talked to him for a while swaping war stories, but when I started talking about the attack he changed and I saw a sadness in his eyes only another service member could understand.

It makes me sad to see that this is happening to some of the bravest folks we have living among us today with a association dedicated to those who were there on that morning in December. Something should be done, so these soldiers, sailors and marines can make it out to pearl harbor.

Like Frank and Leroy said above, their stories need to be documented and passed down to the next generation, so they can know of the bravery, sacrifice, and heroism that they so gallantly portrayed on that day and throughout the war.

Jack December 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

I never really asked my father what he did in the Army . Oh how I wish I did. But I respected him not to go there. It always upset him to think about it. When he died in 1994 I found out he has won a silver star and two bronze star one with clusters. And have no idea as to how or why. He had them tucked away in a draw in a small box. I remember seeing then for the first time .My sisters didn’t know what they were but I did as soon as I seen them. I was lost for words. He was in Italy the forgotten war. Last year my oldest sister was doing a family tree. So I decided to see if I could find out about the awards. I did an inquiry with the records place and in about a month after I got the reply, All his records and thousands more like his were lost in a fire. That is it nothing ells. Oh they did say maybe I could go to the archives in Washington DC and look there . I did find out he is actually on some film they took of solders landing on a beech in Italy and he was in that . Maybe next year I shall go there for a few days and do some research.I do regret not talking to my dad and finding out things. But then again they were just doing there duty. There country called for them to help out in time of need and they all went and just did with out complaining. They came home after and lived there life as best they could.Lost words lost memories and lost lives.They all shall be missed.
Jack…

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