WWII survivors remember Pearl Harbor

HAMILTON TWP., N.J. - December 7, 2011

"That day, it was two hours of violent hell," said Tom Mahoney.

Tom Mahoney is one of five Pearl Harbor survivors who attended a ceremony along the New Jersey Turnpike in Hamilton Township Wednesday afternoon.

They gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of the attack, and the lives lost, including five of his friends whom he'd just had breakfast with moments before the bombing began.

"They were all incinerated, and that's why I will never, never go back to Pearl Harbor," said Mahoney. "I can't stand the thought of what happened to our men."

Seven decades later, the memories of the day that pulled the U.S. into World War II are still seared in the survivors' memories.

"I had to go out in the water and start picking up men who were alive and who were dead. I'll never forget it, it was a horrible thing," said John Hansen.

Young sailors from Naval Weapons Station Earle came to honor and shake hands with the survivors who were lucky enough to have lived through what then President Franklin Roosevelt called "a date which will live in infamy".

"Just some big shoes to fill," said Corpsman Andrew Murdock. "You read about it in history books, and to see these guys up close and just know they were there is pretty amazing."

It is estimated that there are about 8,000 Pearl Harbor survivors still alive; as few as 10 in New Jersey. Most are in their 80s or 90s now, and keeping the story alive about what happened is important to them.

"I'm so glad to be here with the people I have been with for so long. I love this country," said Arthur Goodstone.

As the survivors age, they are less able to be active and so the National Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association will dissolve at the end of December.

But as long as these men live, so will the stories and memories about the event that shaped and changed our nation's history.

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