HONOLULU (AP) — Survivors gathered Thursday at the site of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to remember fellow servicemen killed in the early morning raid 76 years ago.
About 20 survivors attended the event at a grassy looking overlooking harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. They were joined by a several thousand Navy sailors, officials and members of the public.
Gilbert Meyer, who lived through the 1941 Japanese bombing, said he returned because of his shipmates from the USS Utah — and came to pay his respects and say a prayer for them.
The 94-year who lives near Lytle, Texas, was an 18-year-old fireman first class on Dec. 7, 1941 when a torpedo hit the port side of the Utah. He said he's still alive because he happened to be on the ship's starboard side.
"I think about my shipmates and how they were killed. It reminds me that we're lucky we got off and we've made a good country for them," Meyer said.
Meyer later served in the battles at Attu, Kiska, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He witnessed Japan's surrender in 1945 from the deck of the USS Detroit in Tokyo Bay.
Author Steve Twomey was scheduled to deliver the ceremony's keynote address. Twomey wrote the book "Countdown to Pearl Harbor," which examines the 12 days leading up to the Dec. 7, 1941 attack.
After a moment of silence marking the same time that the attack began on Dec. 7, 1941, four F-22 jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard were expected to fly overhead. One of the jets was scheduled to peel off from the formation to symbolize those missing from combat.
The Navy and National Park Service host the ceremony each year at the same time the attack began. Usually, a Navy vessel with sailors manning the rails passes by the USS Arizona Memorial during the event. This year, a ship will not participate because of operational commitments, said Bill Doughty, a spokesman for Navy Region Hawaii.
More than 2,300 servicemen were killed in the assault carried out by Japanese airplanes. Nearly half were on the USS Arizona, which exploded and sank after it was hit by two bombs. Most of the Arizona's fallen are entombed in the battleship, which lies at the bottom of the harbor.
After the ceremony, survivors and dignitaries were expected to ride a boat to the Arizona memorial and present wreaths in remembrance of those killed.
The attack plunged the U.S. into World War II. Japan and the U.S. became close allies after the war.