The following is offered as a Record of this day (December 7, 2006) and is Mirrored Here as a Lasting Tribute and is the sole property of the Associated Press.
At Pearl Harbor, a Solemn Remembrance
500 WWII Veterans Mark 65th Anniversary in Gathering That Could Be Last for Many
Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2006; Page A19
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, Dec. 7 -- One by one, survivors from ships sunk 65 years ago Thursday in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor laid wreaths under life-preserver rings honoring their ships.
Nearly 500 survivors bowed their heads at 7:55 a.m., the moment when planes began bombing the harbor in a surprise attack that thrust the United States into World War II.
In this Navy file photo, a small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack led the United States to enter World War II. (Associated Press)
The USS Arizona Memorial is built atop the hull of the USS Arizona, one of the ships that was sunk by Japanese warplanes on Dec. 7, 1941. A section of the battleship is still visible above the surface.
"America in an instant became the land of the indivisible," said former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, the author of "The Greatest Generation," who spoke at the shoreside ceremony. "There are so many lessons from that time for our time, none greater than the idea of one nation greater than the sum of its parts."
The veterans, most in Hawaiian shirts, were honored with prolonged applause at the solemn ceremony near where some of the ships remain in the harbor, rusting and covered with algae.
"It is because of you and people like you that we have the freedoms we enjoy today," Capt. Taylor Skardon said after relating each ship's story at the end of the ceremony.
A priest gave a Hawaiian blessing, and Marines performed a rifle salute.
Many veterans were treating the gathering as their last, uncertain whether they would be alive or healthy enough to travel to Hawaii for the next big memorial ceremony, for the 70th anniversary.
"Sixty-five years later, there's not too many of us left," said Don Stratton, a seaman 1st class who was aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941. "In another five years I'll be 89. The good Lord willing, I might be able to make it. If so, I'll probably be here. I might not even be around. Who knows? Only the good Lord knows."
Stratton and other survivors were boarding a boat to the white memorial straddling the sunken hull of the Arizona, where they were going to lay wreaths in honor of the dead.
"We thank those who lost their lives 65 years ago, and we honor the survivors and their families who are with us here today," said Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R).
The Arizona sank in less than nine minutes after a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb struck the battleship's deck and hit its ammunition magazine, igniting flames that engulfed it.
More people were killed on the Arizona that day than on any other ship. In all, 1,177 servicemen perished, or about 80 percent of the crew.
Altogether, the attack killed 2,390 Americans and injured 1,178.
Twelve ships sank, and nine vessels were heavily damaged. More than 320 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or heavily damaged by the time the invading planes were done sweeping over military bases from Wheeler Field to Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
Japanese veterans who participated in the attack as navigators and pilots will also pay their respects, offering flowers at the Arizona memorial for the Americans and Japanese who died.