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Archive for Sunday, December 7, 2003

U.S. observes Pearl Harbor day

December 7, 2003

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— Woody Derby was just 23, a farm boy from Iowa enjoying his Sunday newspaper, when his life -- and the nation -- changed forever.

Sixty-two years after that haunting Dec. 7 at Pearl Harbor, thoughts of the Japanese attack that killed 2,390 people are not far off for Derby, nor are they for a nation that has seen more dismal days, fought in more wars, lost thousands more sons and daughters.

Americans keep coming back to remember.

"Why do you think?" asked Derby, 85. "It's the worst military defeat the U.S. has ever had."

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked American and British territories and possessions in the Pacific, including the home base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Hundreds are expected to gather today at the USS Arizona National Memorial to mark the 62nd anniversary of the surprise attack that launched the United States into World War II.

About 1.4 million people visit each year -- some paying homage by tossing flowers into the waters from the memorial above the sunken USS Arizona.

Derby worked in the supply room aboard the USS Nevada when the ship was attacked. He remembers the sounds of the bombing, the gushing water that flooded his ship, the fellow sailors lost.

The crew of the USS O'Kane, who served in the war in Iraq earlier this year, also will honor the Arizona, which lost 1,177 crew members, most of whom are still entombed in the sunken battleship.

"It kind of makes you stop and think about what people have done for us to be free the way we are," said Jan Winn, 62, of Redlands, Calif. "It makes you hope we don't have to go through it again."

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