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Dr. Hiroya Sugano uses his hand to show reporters the imprint of a human hand left on the "blackened canteen" during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The melted canteen, recovered in 1945 from a B-29 bomber crash site in Japan, has since become a symbol of shared peace between Japan and America.

Dr. Hiroya Sugano uses his hand to show reporters the imprint of a human hand left on the "blackened canteen" during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The melted canteen, recovered in 1945 from a B-29 bomber crash site in Japan, has since become a symbol of shared peace between Japan and America. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Dr. Hiroya Sugano uses his hand to show reporters the imprint of a human hand left on the "blackened canteen" during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The melted canteen, recovered in 1945 from a B-29 bomber crash site in Japan, has since become a symbol of shared peace between Japan and America.

Dr. Hiroya Sugano uses his hand to show reporters the imprint of a human hand left on the "blackened canteen" during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The melted canteen, recovered in 1945 from a B-29 bomber crash site in Japan, has since become a symbol of shared peace between Japan and America. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

World War II pilot Jack DeTour, left, joins Dr. Hiroya Sugano and Shiro Wakita, a Japanese fighter pilot during World War II, to pour bourbon whiskey from the "blackened canteen" into the waters above the sunken USS Arizona, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The bourbon is intended to honor the war dead from both countries and to serve as a symbol of peace.

World War II pilot Jack DeTour, left, joins Dr. Hiroya Sugano and Shiro Wakita, a Japanese fighter pilot during World War II, to pour bourbon whiskey from the "blackened canteen" into the waters above the sunken USS Arizona, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. The bourbon is intended to honor the war dead from both countries and to serve as a symbol of peace. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., head of U.S. Pacific Command, told an audience at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, that the more than 1,100 sailors and Marines entombed in the sunken USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor "are the guardian angels of our nation" who will "never be forgotten."

Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., head of U.S. Pacific Command, told an audience at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, that the more than 1,100 sailors and Marines entombed in the sunken USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor "are the guardian angels of our nation" who will "never be forgotten." (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Pearl Harbor survivor John Mathrusse, 92,  returns a salute as he enters the USS Arizona Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony Sunday, Dec. 7, 2015, with his wife, Miriam Hoppe. He was a seaman 2nd class on the day of the 1941 attack, and helped save crewmen from the burning USS California.

Pearl Harbor survivor John Mathrusse, 92, returns a salute as he enters the USS Arizona Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony Sunday, Dec. 7, 2015, with his wife, Miriam Hoppe. He was a seaman 2nd class on the day of the 1941 attack, and helped save crewmen from the burning USS California. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Marines fire their weapons during a rifle salute at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as part of a ceremony on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, that recalled the events of the 1941 surprise attack by the Japanese. In the background is the USS Arizona Memorial.

Marines fire their weapons during a rifle salute at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as part of a ceremony on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, that recalled the events of the 1941 surprise attack by the Japanese. In the background is the USS Arizona Memorial. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Veterans of the Dec, 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor talk about their experiences after a ceremony Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memoriaal. From left are Louis Conter, John Hughes and Ed Schuler.

Veterans of the Dec, 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor talk about their experiences after a ceremony Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the USS Arizona Memoriaal. From left are Louis Conter, John Hughes and Ed Schuler. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

World War II veteran Daniel B.T. Lau visits the shrine room of the USS Arizona Memorial after a ceremony Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. He was stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii, at the time of the attack, and went on to fight in Europe where he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.

World War II veteran Daniel B.T. Lau visits the shrine room of the USS Arizona Memorial after a ceremony Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. He was stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii, at the time of the attack, and went on to fight in Europe where he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — The survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor cheated death while many of their comrades died that day and in the four years of war that followed.

Now, with the very youngest among them in their early 90s, they have outlived virtually their entire generation, but some who attended Monday’s commemoration ceremonies were already vowing not to miss next year’s milestone 75th anniversary.

Given their traditional honored seating during the annual event at the joint Navy-Air Force base in Hawaii, they were asked to stand up according to their service branch toward the end of the ceremony. The men, mostly sailors, stood slowly but gamely, worn down by age but still proud to have served.

Speaking to an audience of roughly 1,000, U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris Jr. recalled that his father was an enlisted sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, which left Pearl Harbor a few days before the attack.

“As you can imagine, growing up I listened to my dad’s stories of duty, honor and courage,” he said.

Harris quoted the “sage advice” in the motto of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association: “Keep America alert” because “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

“Today and for every tomorrow, we owe a debt to the men and women who gave their full measure of devotion on Dec. 7 and throughout World War II,” Harris said. “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds and the legacy they left behind.”

news@stripes.com

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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