There are days in the year we should commemorate yearly: 9/11, D-Day, V-Day, July 4. December 7, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, is one of those days. We lost 2,400 in the attack, the majority on the USS Arizona.

Today at Pearl Harbor, a sailor who saved six men finally received his recognition. Also, President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation to recognize December 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Seven survivors joined him for the event.

The speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave on December 8:


During the attack, a young sailor named Joe George risked his life to save “the last six survivors from the sinking USS Arizona.” Everyone thought he should have received a medal. The Navy commended him and added his heroics to his record, but in order to get a medal, the Navy demanded an eyewitness and “corroboration from a senior officer who was aboard the USS Vestal with George.” No one could find them.

Another problem included George disobeying “an order to cut the line between the Vestal, a maintenance ship, and the Arizona.” he refused to do so after he spotted those six men.

Unfortunately, George died in 1996. But those who were around him never forgot his actions, especially the family members of the men he saved. From USA Today:

A few years later, the son of one of the men George rescued took up the cause of the medal.

He called. He wrote letters. He enlisted other Pearl Harbor survivors. He tracked down George’s family and promised George’s widow he would fight to secure recognition for the man who had saved his dad’s life.

George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, joined the campaign. They took it all the way to the White House.

Today, 76 years later, George finally received a medal:

On Thursday, a Navy admiral will present Taylor a Bronze Star Medal for Valor, recognizing George posthumously. The ceremony will take place aboard the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, yards from where the story began.

And though George has died, the story continues. His efforts saved six men that day. Now, improbably — 76 years later — of the five USS Arizona survivors still alive, two of them are men George saved.

When Taylor accepts her father’s medal, she won’t be alone. Donald Stratton, 95, and Lauren Bruner, 97, will be standing there with her.

“Whatever medal it is doesn’t matter,” she said. “It was a story that needed to be told. It was a huge part of history, for those men who were true heroes, and it was was my dad who helped them.”

Memorial Service

Every year, survivors from the attack attend a memorial service to honor and remember those lost on December 7, 1941. Twenty of the survivors made it this year, along with “2,000 Navy sailors, officials and members of the public.”

Gilbert Meyer, 94, was 18 when the Japanese attacked. He went onto serve at Attu, Kiska, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He also witnessed the Japanese surrender in 1945.

Herbert Elfring, 95, was only 19. He thought the explosions were a training exercise. Bullets barely missed him. He enjoys returning because he is one of the few remaining survivors. From The Associated Press:

“I have one of those caps that says ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor’ on it,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people come up and thank me for my service.”

The majority of those who lost their lives were on the USS Arizona, many of those remain inside the ship. The survivors and dignitaries took a boat to the memorial to place wreaths. The AP continued:

“The heroes with us today ensured Pearl Harbor would not be the end of the story,” said Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift. “Instead of retreating from the fight, America’s Pacific Fleet dug in its heels. Along the way, they forged a cultural heritage of resilience that sailors continue to draw upon today.”

“On behalf of a grateful Pacific nation, and a proud Pacific Fleet, I would like to thank our Pearl Harbor and World War II veterans who yet carry the burden and bear the scars of those fateful days,” Swift said. “We honor you for the proud cultural heritage of victory and toughness that you have bestowed on each of us that now wear the uniform in your honor.”

National Remembrance Day

Lawrence Parry wiped away his tears after he met Trump.

Trump proclaimed the men as heroes and thanked them for their service. Michael Ganitch, who wore a Hawaiian shirt, sang “Remember Pearl Harbor” as Trump delivered his remarks.

USS Ward

The USS Arizona is the first ship that pops into anyone’s head when they hear Pearl Harbor. But did you know the USS Ward fired the first American shots during WWII, an hour before the attack? From ABC News:

At 6:45 a.m. that day, the destroyer’s crew spotted a Japanese midget submarine.

A full hour before the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor by air, the Ward sank the Japanese sub — considered the first American shots in World War II. It would later be revealed that four other Japanese vessels were lurking near the harbor before the attack.

The USS Ward sank three years later off the coast of the Philippines:

With a fire raging on board, the crew was forced to abandon the ship before the nearby USS O’Brien deliberately sank the Ward. The O’Brien’s commanding officer at the time was Lt. Cmdr. William Outerbridge, who was in charge of the Ward during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Remarkably, the entire crew of the Ward survived the ordeal. As for the destroyer, it rested unseen at the bottom of Ormoc Bay — that is, until Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen’s expedition crew decided to find it.

Allen’s project found the USS Ward and brought images of the sunken ship to the surface for the first time. The expedition also captured images “of five Japanese ships on which more than 4,000 men lost their lives during a battle on Oct. 25, 1944 — still considered the largest naval battle in history, according to the Allen Project.”


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