USS PEARL HARBOR --
Sailors and Marines aboard two ships whose names honor the memory of the Pacific War held services to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
Aboard USS Pearl Harbor and USS Makin Island, service members gathered to “recognize the sacrifices of those who have gone before us,” said Navy Capt. Jim Landers, commander of the amphibious assault ship Makin Island.
The ships, to include the amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans, left San Diego Nov. 14 embarked with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 5, which together make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.
The group arrived in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor Nov. 21 for a scheduled port visit where hundreds took liberty in visiting historic sites like the floating USS Arizona Memorial straddling above the battleship sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers.
“Observing the wreckage was a sobering experience,” said Sgt. Ryan J. Eskandary, a 27 year old from St. Paul, Minn. “I don’t want the sacrifices of those men to be forgotten with time.”
Eskandary serves aboard USS Pearl Harbor as a member of the Marine unit’s detachment from 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
All eight battleships quietly moored at “battleship row” suffered losses in that fateful surprise attack. The exploded Arizona’s 1,177 lives lost were the greatest, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command web site.
Cruisers, destroyers and auxiliaries, all in threes, were among the losses, as was the former battleship Utah. The dry-docked USS Pennsylvania remained in service after repairs, and all but two battleships returned to service. USS Oklahoma, which capsized and suffered 429 dead, was refloated two years later and stripped of its guns and superstructure. While being towed to San Francisco in May 1947, Oklahoma again overturned and was lost at sea.
“It was pretty meaningful coming into port in Hawaii on a ship named Pearl Harbor,” said Sgt. James A. Moniz, a 29 year old from Granite City, Ill. “My grandfather lives in Hilo, Hawaii, and used to talk about the attack on Pearl Harbor.”
Moniz, who serves with the Marine unit’s ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, said his grandfather was in the Army during World War II, and his father served as a Marine in the Vietnam War.
Pearl Harbor, he said, is “definitely something my family doesn’t forget … I won’t forget it. Every Marine should think about that day; it’s a big turning point in history.
Staff Sgt. Dave J. Washington aboard USS Pearl Harbor gave the name of every ship that suffered casualties in the attack, and Seaman Alonzo W. Bender responded to each name by sounding a bell. Washington, 27, is from Cleveland.
Cpl. Brandon Hund and Lance Cpl. Steven Stroud followed, doing the same bell salute for the Army's Wheeler and Hickam fields, the Marine air base at Ewa and the Navy's Ford Island Air Station, where, all totaled, 188 aircraft were destroyed and 31 more damaged.
Sailing aboard Makin Island on its maiden ocean transit, an honor platoon of 60 sailors and Marines formed in an open hangar, backdropped by a Pacific sky and a lone wreath.
“We go forward with our heads held high but look back and remember where we come from,” said Col. Michael Hudson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU during his address to the embarked Marines and sailors.
A Navy choir sang; a Marine rifle detail fired volleys in a salute to the fallen, and a bugler played taps.
Makin Island, the second ship to bear the name, is the newest Wasp-class amphibious assault ship and the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. The ship is designed with a flight deck and a well deck from which Marines are moved ashore in helicopters or seagoing vessels.
This past summer off Southern California’s coast, Marines and sailors aboard Makin Island commemorated the 69th anniversary of the daring U.S. attack on Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. A commando-type raid force from 2nd Raider Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, made its way to the Japanese-held island after launching in rubber boats from the Navy submarines Nautilus and Argonaut.
For a complete historical record featuring documents, photographs and oral histories of the Pearl Harbor attack, go to www.history.navy.mil. The web site also includes a 2,000-word abstract depicting the actions of U.S. Marines at Pearl Harbor.
Note: Cpl. Tommy Huynh aboard USS Pearl Harbor contributed reporting to this article.