Aloha, I hope that this finds you well. Our family returned from Pearl Harbor and despite weather reports of snow in the area, we were blessed with sunny days while there. We saw and experienced a great deal and wanted to share a little background on the events of Wednesday, 7 DEC, the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
For over a year now, it's been a privilege to work and plan on the activities for the last surviving members of USS Arizona. 1,177 men died onboard on December 7, 1941. 1,102 are buried aboard ship; any survivor may have his remains placed onboard. After spending so much time with the survivors, their families, and the families of John Anderson and Clare Hetrick (who passed away this past year and were interred above ship), it's clear that USS Arizona, her crew and their stories are to be honored and carried forward. That is the intent of sharing this...so carry forward their legacy. Please share this broadly as you see fit.
Before reading below, please watch this as it best captures the overall experience of the week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHVpnFM9FwA&t=1s
We designed jackets for the survivors (4 of 5 made the trip) and also sent jackets to the families of the two recently deceased crew members. The jackets were personalized for each survivor and included the logos used on the challenge coin. Very Special Thanks to Jim Kozak from ScratchOff Works for the design, Wing-n-Things Pensacola for the jackets. and CoinForce for the coinsHere is a photo of the jackets. Also thank you to those whom contributed to the cost of the jackets. As you will see in photos and videos, the survivors wore them everyone.
Challenge Coins, a total of 50 were minted and handed out by the survivors and the families of those whom recently passed.
TRAVEL & LODGING
United Airlines flew the survivors and their families First Class roundtrip and rolled out the red carpet the entire way. Here's their video with survivor Lou Conter.
Hilton Hawaiian hosted the survivors and their families and rolled out VIP treatment the entire time. They were remarkable hosts and did a magnificent job taking care of the 1001 details.
The USS Arizona Survivors Association hosted a welcome brunch and then we headed to the Punchbowl for a wreath laying.
The survivors and family of the recently deceased were granted access to the USS Arizona superstructure. After the ship sunk, a portion of the superstructure was left above water and used as a temporary memorial. When permanent memorial was constructed, the superstructure was cut away and placed in outdoor storage. For most of the survivors, this was something they had not seen before. Please do not post the images below on social media as the Navy does not want the public at large to know this exists for fear of looting. The survivors and family of the recently deceased were each given a piece of the ship.
Next ,we visited the USS Missouri and were treated to lunch in the Captain's Cabin. On the tour of the ship, visitors can see the cabin but are not permitted to enter. The USS Missouri team rolled out the red carpet and, with the help of the chief's mess from the USS Michael Murphy & USS Halsey, the survivors were escorted aboard and into the cabin. We were joined by Medal of Honor Recipient Woody Williams, who earned his medal on Iwo Jima, as well as the COs and CMCs from the USS Halsey and USS Michael Murphy.
The survivors held a signing event at the Hilton Hawaiian. The line to see them stretched down two flights of stairs and across the courtyard. They signed posters, hats, books, took photos, and used up several pens worth of ink. That evening the group attended a movie premier held of "Remember Pearl Harbor"
The survivors and family of the recently passed took the air for helicopter rides courtesy of Blue Hawaiian. During the flight over the harbor, they observed the USS Halsey on a practice run for the 7DEC ceremonies. After the helicopter ride, they took a harbor tour.
The survivors and families attended "crew day" at the USS Arizona visitor center and rested up in preparation for the 7th. The survivors were anxious and nervous for the day so the rest was a little harder to come by.
The 75th Anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor brought together, perhaps for the last time, survivors, families, and dignitaries from the world over. The USS John C. Stennis came into port for the week. The survivors are families were included in an invitation only ceremony on Kilo Pier, which is directly across from the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri. Donald Stratton of the USS Arizona saluated the USS Halsey (her crew manned the rails and she rendered honors to the USS Utah, USS Arizona, and then to those on Kilo Pier). The ceremony can be found here, Admiral Harris remarks are especially poignant.
I was onboard the USS Halsey and manned the rails for rendering of honors.
That afternoon, there was a double private internment ceremony for John Anderson and Clare Hetrick aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. Admiral Fuller and Admiral Kibben were in attendance. The ceremony is solemn in that the families transfer the ashes to Navy divers whom place them aboard the USS Arizona. A 21-gun salute, flag presentation details, and full honor guard are in attendance supporting the ceremony. It was my honor to collect the brass and present it to the families. The Hetrick's asked that I provide casings to those "whom would value them." The two Navy divers who placed Clare Hetrick's ashes onboard ship knew Clare's entire life story and were gratified to receive a casing.
We departed the memorial as the sun set...
The USS Arizona Survivor Association held their closing banquet and our guest speaker was Admiral Swift who attended with his wife Trish. He was gracious in replying to the speaking request that arrived in email from yours truly. It was an honor and privilege to make a few remarks and then introduce the Admiral. He spent time with each survivor as well as the families of the interred. Donald Stratton presented him with a USS Arizona coin, a rare site to see someone give a 4-star Admiral a coin!
Please take a moment and the CBS interview with survivor Donald Stratton
Donald’s book is an excellent read: https://www.amazon.com/All-Gallant-Men-American-Firsthand/dp/0062645358
There are so many stories, conversations, and parts of this trip that are not written in this brief summary but are committed to memory. It was the highlight of my young Navy career to spent time with and support this Final Salute to our USS Arizona survivors.