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Chaplain (Maj.) Elwin St. Rose, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain, gives the invocation during a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Luncheon Dec. 7, 2011, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. St. Rose, a native of Columbus, Ohio, is deployed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Paul Labbe)
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Deployed Airmen remember Pearl Harbor

Posted 12/7/2011   Updated 12/8/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Eric Summers Jr.
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Although 70 years have passed since "a date which will live in infamy," the events of Dec. 7, 1941, still resonate with many Americans and their allies.

The members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and coalition partners here are no different. They gathered together today to reflect upon the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack during a Pearl Harbor Remembrance luncheon.

"Pearl Harbor is worth remembering -- in a way, it's kind of an ideal day to reflect on history," said guest speaker Dr. Susan Dawson, 379th AEW historian, deployed from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. "It's not so near in time that the memory still stings for most of us but is still recent enough that it has meaning.

"Most importantly, the day was not just a tragedy -- it was more complicated than that because it brought out the best in people and helped unite the nation in a way that, if we learn from it, could be possible again," she added.

Audience members said the doctor's speech brought out the human aspects of the attack that have been studied in detail by both countries involved.

"To me this was a unique event -- something I have not been to before," said Maj. Michael Brazda, 379th AEW executive officer, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "Though I thought I knew the story well, I learned some interesting facts about the people involved.

"It gave me new appreciation to know what it was like to have been there," added the Grand Rapids, Mich., native.

The attack began around 7:55 on a Sunday morning. The first wave of Japanese aircraft sank the battleship USS Arizona, trapping 1,177 crew members inside. The battleship USS Oklahoma rolled over, trapping another 400 men. Six other battleships were sunk or damaged.

Dawson said while most of the Navy, Marine and Army Air Corps planes were destroyed on the ground, a few pilots managed to take off -- one who was still in his pajamas -- and were able to shoot down enemy planes.

"At Hickam, one man even managed to lug a machine gun to the roof of a hangar," she said. "Another climbed into a parked B-18 Bolo, mounted a .30-caliber machine gun in the nose and kept firing at the enemy until his aircraft was hit and consumed by fire."

The devastating attack lasted less than two hours.

"Almost 200 American planes were destroyed, and another 150 damaged -- eight battleships were damaged and four sunk," said Dawson. "More than 2,400 servicemen died in the attack and 1,200 more were wounded."

In the months following the attack, there were 15 Medal of Honor recipients, 51 recipients of the Navy Cross and 53 recipients of the Silver Cross.

During his closing remarks, Brig. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, 379th AEW commander, put the day of remembrance in context.

"If you were standing on the fan tail of a ship right now at Pearl Harbor someone like Senator Inouye from Hawaii would be talking to anywhere from 800 to a couple thousand people on the significance of that day," he said. "If you were at Hickam Field, they are honoring the 136 people that died that day at Hickam.

"There would have been an F-15 and F-22 fly-by from the Hawaii Air National Guard over the top of our flag pole and just seconds later right over the top of the Arizona," he added. "So it is really an amazing time for us to be talking, celebrating and remembering the lives of those who are with us and those who perished that day."

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