Families, survivors pay tribute to Pearl Harbor
By Lance Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
| | December 07, 2005
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES, PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
Shots fired by Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment firing detail echoed through the waters of Pearl Harbor in remembrance of a day that echoes throughout history at the 64th Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration Dec. 7.
Along with the firing detail, wreath laying ceremonies and an F-15 missing man formation flew over the heads of the attendees. Each was a fitting mark of respect for the 2,390 Americans who lost their lives during the assault on Pearl Harbor.
“I remember seeing them come up over the mountain range and I watched as they got closer and closer. It wasn’t till I saw the markings that I knew we were being attacked,” said Warren Verhoff, who served on the USS Keosanqua. “I can still hear those explosions.”
Those who survived one of the darkest days of our country's history were also honored.
A surviving crewmember of each battleship placed a wreath in honor of their fellow shipmates.
While Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, spoke, the outline of the Arizona Memorial could be seen in the distance echoing the events long since past.
“Spirits linger where great things have happened,” said Mullen.
Indeed many heroic things happened in the waters of Pearl Harbor, many of them have been told and many more will never be known.
“Something great abides in these waters,” said Mullen. “Great deeds were witnessed here and we can’t help but return to pay our respects.”
Francis Tannheimer, who was serving as a mechanic on the USS California that infamous day, does not need to return to remember what took place here. Yet he has returned three times on this date to honor his fallen comrades.
Tannheimer was in the boiler room of the USS California when the attack commenced.
“When the torpedo hit it shook the ship like a box of matches,” said Tannheimer. “Me and the other guys stood our post till we were given the order to abandon ship. By that time the ship had settled into the mud and we were up to our necks in water. It took a long time to get out.”
When Tannheimer made it to the deck of the ship he was faced with another challenge.
“I had to jump over the side and swim for it, but I was a horrible swimmer,” said Tannheimer. “I barely managed to doggie paddle to shore.”
While Tannheimer could remember that day in detail he would not speak much more about it, as though the faces of his friends who perished were still fresh in his mind.
As taps played, the faces of the survivors became overwhelmed with remembrance as if the attack had happened yesterday. Still, they stood proud and were willing to share the stories of those who could not tell them themselves.
While the men of that era continue to inspire the people of this nation, they are leaving our ranks rapidly.
Over 1,000 WWII veterans pass away daily. The “Greatest Generation” will soon be gone with only historical records and memories to fill the void.
“Today our own generation of servicemembers have embarked on a great odyssey,” said Mullen. “There to will come a day when their story will be told by their children and they will remember them just as we remember those who gave their best in these waters. This is why we can never forget.”