Veterans of Pearl Harbor, many now nearing their 100th birthdays, seem to have a shared hope that the younger generations don’t forget what happened to them on that fateful day.
The attack took place on a Sunday morning in Hawaii. Without warning, hundreds of Japanese warplanes swooped down to attack most of the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.
The attack would plunge the isolationist-minded United States into World War II.
It was a deadly day for all. Nearly 2400 Americans lost their lives in the attack. Twelve ships were sunk or beached; nine others were damaged. The U.S. lost 164 aircraft. On the Japanese side, 64 died and 29 planes were destroyed.
The youngest of the local survivors, Bill Browning, says he was lucky to be on a cargo ship and not a targeted ship during the attacks. "I was just a young fella – 19 - at Pearl Harbor. I remember quite a bit about it. It had a real affect on the young mind,” he said. “It was a dastardly attack. We lost a lot of men.”
“One plane banked low so that the machine gun could get a shot at where I was standing, but it didn’t make quite far enough. So the war became pretty personal,” another survivor, Jim Downic, told KKTV 11 News during a gathering of veterans over the weekend.
One day after the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Congress approved it within hours.
Other local veterans have traveled to Hawaii for a memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Browning says he wants to make sure the tragedy of the attack isn't forgotten. "The national association is closing this year, and I just hope we don't leave the public's thoughts," Browning said.
Pearl Harbor Survivors Association President William Muehleib announced the group, which was founded in 1958, would disband Wednesday. He cited the age and poor health of remaining members. He thanked the executive board for its courage in reaching the decision.
The attack was commemorated Wednesday morning with a ceremony in Colorado Springs' Memorial Park. The ceremony included a wreath-laying, a moment of silence and a playing of Taps.