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Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Pearl Harbor comes alive through recollections

May 23, 2001

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— "I have to learn to forgive and forget," said one U.S. sailor who survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor. "I've never forgiven 'em. You just don't lose that many shipmates and forget that it happened," says another veteran.

Both have their say in History Channel's "Tora, Tora Tora: The True Story of Pearl Harbor," one of several films that mark the Japanese assault by giving voice to those caught in the horror of Dec. 7, 1941.

The 60th anniversary of this "date that will live in infamy," as President Franklin D. Roosevelt emblazoned it, is coming six months early on television, prodded by both Memorial Day and the box office. Cable and broadcast networks are capitalizing on interest stirred by "Pearl Harbor," the big-budget, big-special effects film opening Friday amid a barrage of publicity and advertising.

The actual event comes ferociously alive in eyewitness accounts and footage included in the TV programs, including the moment the USS Arizona exploded, sending a hellish black cloud hundreds of feet into the air. Official records list 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 wounded in the first foreign attack on the United States since the British invaded Washington in the War of 1812.

The veterans of Pearl Harbor get their due as more than sacrifices to history. The TV programs detail extraordinary acts of heroism as troops quickly shook off the shock of attack and began fighting back.

John Finn manned a machine gun on his base there were no anti-aircraft weapons and blasted at Japanese aircraft roaring low overhead as fellow sailors kept him supplied with ammunition. "I could have shot for six months and never reloaded," recalled the Medal of Honor recipient, now 92. Although repeatedly wounded by shrapnel, "Basically, it just wasn't my day to die," Finn said.

Among the upcoming specials are:

l "Tora, Tora, Tora" ("tiger," the code word Japan used to launch the attack) shows at 8 p.m. CDT Saturday as part of History Channel's Memorial Day weekend salute to Pearl Harbor. "Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor" precedes it at 7 p.m. CDT, with "One Hour Over Tokyo: The Doolittle Raid," showing at 10 p.m. CDT.

l At 7 p.m. CDT Sunday, the channel offers "History vs. Hollywood: Pearl Harbor," an analysis of the Disney movie's accuracy by historians and veterans. Interviews with the film's stars, including Ben Affleck and Cuba Gooding Jr., are scheduled.

l Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is the host of MSNBC's "Pearl Harbor: Attack on America," which examines the lessons to be learned. The two-hour program airs Thursday at 9 p.m. CDT.

l ABC resurrects its 10-year-old, Peabody Award-winning documentary "Pearl Harbor: Two Hours That Changed the World," on 9 p.m. CDT Saturday. The film, a joint venture by ABC News and NKH Japanese Television to commemorate the attack's 50th anniversary, brought veterans from both sides together to illuminate the event.

l "Secrets of Pearl Harbor," a Travel Channel special showing 5 p.m. CDT Sunday, offers eyewitness accounts of the attack and underwater footage of the USS Arizona, the bomb-ravaged, sunken ship that is part of a memorial that draws more than 1 million visitors a year.

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