Thousands gather at Pearl Harbor for 75th anniversary memorial

Posted at 8:48 PM, Dec 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 22:47:58-05

Thousands gathered along a pier in Hawaii - hoping for a picture or signature from some very special people.

But this wasn't for a celebrity.

This was the scene as people crowded the survivors of the pearl harbor attack to thank them for their service.

The ceremony included a missing man formation flyover, a salute from the USS Halsey, and a walk of honor for every veteran from current service members.

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More than 2 thousand military members lost their life here 75 years ago. Of the 1,177 who died on the uss Arizona alone, more than 60 of those men came from Missouri and Kansas. 

The few survivors left shared their stories this week.

"I was a 20 year old brat who became a man overnight," said Stuart Hadley, who was serving at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

Though decades have come and gone since that tragic Sunday morning, they men vividly remember where they were when Japanese war planes turned the world upside down.

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"I was on the battleship Pennsylvania in the living compartment in my football uniform as we were scheduled to play the USS Arizona in a free football championship that day," said Michael Gennich, another veteran from Pearl Harbor.

"I went out on topside. Planes were diving from every direction," said Hadley. "As I was going up the port ladder, here come a Japanese torpedo plane down the port side. I could see the pilot, co pilot, and radioman laughing like everything."

"I was one of the lucky ones to get off," said Donald Stratton. "I crawled across a line. It was so hot. I was burned so bad, I don't have any fingerprints anymore."

Stratton was on board the USS Arizona during the attack.

Now - Its an underwater cemetery for those who died in 1941, and a final resting place for those who lived beyond the attack.

2016 is the first year two families will send their veteran back to the Arizona - for good.

"They are joining their shipmates for permanent duty, permanent watch. We all have to take a breath. We're all going to be there someday," said Louis Conter.

Ashes of one survivor interred today join his brother,  who died in the attack in 1941.



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