Pearl Harbor survivors will not attend Dec. 7 ceremony
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: November 26, 2020
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HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Following a scaled-back 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, COVID-19 has claimed another internationally recognized event for aged war veterans — the annual
In what may be a first in decades, no eyewitnesses to the day of infamy will attend the 7:55 a.m. ceremony marking the terrible moment 79 years ago when Japanese warplanes dove out of the sky to attack
To keep the numbers down and spacing up, about a dozen mostly local World War II veterans were previously invited for this year's
But in another somber milestone that reflects the dangers of the virus for older people, the decision was made to not have any of the veterans, now close to 100 years old, attend the event.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we will not have WWII veterans at the ceremony but are ensuring they all have the information to view it virtually, " said
The largely virtual event will have no public attendance.
The three museums that operate in the USS Arizona's Memorial's orbit, meanwhile, are in varying stages of reopening, with the
Three years ago, about 20 Pearl Harbor survivors alone and 2,000 members of the public came out for the
This year's event follows the pattern of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II held on
Approximately 46 World War II veterans were expected from the mainland, but organizers ultimately decided against the travel with widespread COVID-19.
Still, an 82-year-old pilot on a vintage PBY Catalina flying boat who was on
On this National Pearl Harbor
Conter, who lives in
"I like to pay tribute to the 2,403 men (and women) that got killed that day, including 1,177 of my shipmates on the Arizona, " he said in a phone interview. "I love to come out there every year and pay them my respects."
But with coronavirus and quarantine or test requirements to enter
His doctor told him, "Yeah, I'll just keep you alive until you are 100 next September, " Conter said with a laugh. "Then we'll go for the 80th (anniversary ). We're all planning on coming next year."
This year's commemoration, which will be live-streamed, will include a speech by Adm.
This year's theme is "Above and Beyond the Call " and focuses on "Battlefield Oahu " and the fact that
The war in the Pacific would be brutally waged for more than three more years before
Conter reminds people that "
He was on the stern of the Arizona when a Japanese aerial bomb pierced the bow of the battleship, igniting a million pounds of gunpowder. In the devastation that followed, he helped badly injured men get off the ship.
Conter went to flight school in early 1942 as an enlisted pilot, got his wings in November and went to VP-11, the Black Cats, flying PBY Catalinas near New Guinea — getting shot down twice.
Conter did night dive-bombing and torpedo runs. In
One crew member said "you guys say your prayers — we're 7 miles offshore and it's windy and we've got sharks all around us, " Conter recalled.
"And I said bull____. I said, 'Get in a line and hold hands and tread water lightly and help each other until we get out of this thing, ' " Conter said.
Another PBY flew over and dropped life rafts, which the crew of 10 used to reach a Japanese-occupied island. A passing
Conter also helped rescue over 200 Australian coast watchers on the narrow
Meanwhile, the museums in
The Arizona Memorial visitor center will be open to the public at 11 :30 a.m. on
The museum's annual For Love of Country Gala on Dec. 5—its largest annual fundraiser—will be completely virtual this year.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial remains closed, with a hoped-for reopening in mid-December. Spokeswoman
"We can't speak for other