Pearl Harbor commemoration to focus on US response

HONOLULU (AP) - December 6, 2008 The theme of the event - "Pacific War Memories: The Heroic Response to Pearl Harbor" - is something of a departure from the past.

Usually, the commemoration focuses on the attack on the USS Arizona, /*Pearl Harbor*/ and several other installations on Oahu. But this year's remembrance ceremony will center more on the months following the raid, said Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation for the National Park Service.

"We're moving into the Pacific War, the first strike back," she said.

To that end, one of two keynote speakers will be Thomas Griffin, a surviving member of the pilots and crew who answered the Pearl Harbor attack four months later with an aircraft carrier-launched bomber raid on Tokyo.

The B-25 mission, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, inflicted little damage on Japan but boosted morale in America and led the embarrassed Japanese government to launch an ill-fated attack on Midway Island.

The other keynote address will be delivered by Admiral Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Sunday's commemoration will feature a performance by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, morning colors, a Hawaiian blessing, a rifle salute by the U.S. Marine Corps and a recognition of those who survived the attack.

At 7:55 a.m., when the attack began 67 years ago, a moment of silence will be observed. The destroyer USS Chung-Hoon will render honors to the USS Arizona, which still lies beneath the harbor with its dead.

Almost 2,400 Americans were killed and nearly 1,180 injured when Japanese fighters bombed and sank 12 naval vessels and heavily damaged nine others on Dec. 7, 1941. The Arizona, which sank in less than nine minutes after an armor-piercing bomb breached its deck and exploded in the ship's ammunition magazine, lost 1,177 sailors and marines. About 340 of its crew survived.

Other major installations on Oahu, such as Wheeler Field and Kaneohe Naval Air Station, also were attacked.

This year's ceremony comes weeks after construction began on a new visitor's center for the USS Arizona Memorial. The existing center, which was built 28 years ago on reclaimed land, is sinking. Officials have said it will be unusable in a few years.

This year's event will be held a half-mile away at Kilo Pier of Naval Station Pearl Harbor, the site for next year's commemoration as well. The new visitor's center is scheduled to open Dec. 7, 2010.

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