Every December 7th we are told to “remember Pearl Harbor,” but for most of us it is a time to learn about Pearl Harbor because the number of people who remember the “day that will live in infamy” declines every day.
According to a report in the New York Times, in 1991, there were 7,000 Pearl Harbor survivors at the 50th anniversary of the attack. At the 70th anniversary the estimated number was down to about 125 or so, and the official survivors organization will actually disband due to members growing old, becoming sick or infirm, and dying.
Our family had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor in the spring of ’11, when we were in Hawaii for a wedding. Our first glimpse of this historic site came as we were in our final approach to Honolulu International Airport when we saw the iconic U.S.S Arizona memorial from the window, complete with faint traces of oil still seeping from the sunken wreckage.
36 hours later we made the trip to Pearl Harbor, first arriving at the Visitors Center. There are pictures, videos and displays that tell the story of what happened on December 7, 1941, but the most powerful attraction there are the survivors. On the calendar that day was a man from Stamford, Everett Hyland. When we asked where he was, we were told he wasn’t feeling that well and couldn’t make it in. Hyland was 88 then, and one of the younger survivors.
Pearl Harbor Survivor Herb Weatherwax, who was 93 in this picture. He turned 99 in 2016,
We spoke to the other survivors who were more than willing to talk about that horrific day that changed the course of history. Our chat with them was a lesson Kara and I will never forget, and hopefully something our then four year old daughter will remember even thought she was wiped out from jet leg and her little body was struggling to adjust to a six hour time difference.
From the visitors center, tourists take a boat to the USS Arizona. The guides tell you to be respectful because, after all, it is a gravesite. They also advise visitors to be solemn. Kara and I looked at our kids being kids, and knew that solemnity was something their young minds could not comprehend. We passed on that part of the Pearl Harbor tour out of respect.
Instead, we gazed at the memorial from across the water and my daughter recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
The kids were given this souvenir of their visit. As they learn about Pearl Harbor at school in the years to come , we will show them pictures of our trip and remind them of what December 7th is all about. We’ll also tell them about their ancestors, who immediately enlisted in the U.S. military after Pearl Harbor. My grandfather, Crescenzo Chully (Chiulli,) joined the Navy and later served in Okinawa, Japan.
and my father-in-law Bruce Sundlun joined the Air Force, and served in Europe where he was shot down by the Nazis over Belgium.
To give you a sense of just how strong patriotism was after the attacks, my great-grandfather Paolo Chiulli also tried to enlist, but at 63, he was turned down.
Here are the rest of the pictures from our Hawaii trip https://dennishouse.tv/2011/04/28/from-hartford-to-hawaii/