America remembers Pearl Harbor, an attack that changed history

Fri Dec 6, 2013 4:13pm EST
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By Jeffrey Roth

NEW CUMBERLAND, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - World War Two pilot Henry Heim, now 92, says he can still hear the sounds of the attack on Pearl Harbor vividly.

Looking back on the fateful morning of December 7, 1941, when Japanese bombers pounded the U.S. Pacific fleet, Americans like Heim are marking the anniversary on Saturday with solemn public ceremonies and private moments of reflection.

The surprise Japanese air and naval assault on the Hawaiian island of Oahu claimed 2,390 American lives and drew the United States into World War Two.

The 90-minute raid left 1,178 people wounded, sank or heavily damaged a dozen U.S. warships and destroyed 323 aircraft, badly crippling the Pacific fleet.

Heim, then 22, was writing a letter to his brother from his barracks at Pearl Harbor when the attack began.

"As I was writing 'Dear Bob,' I heard lots of airplanes," he said. Another soldier near him awoke, complaining about U.S. Navy pilots flying maneuvers so early in the morning.

His complaint was cut short by a tremendous explosion, Heim recalled from his home in Pennsylvania earlier this week.

"I saw another airplane coming down, and something dropped down from underneath it. Then there was another explosion," he said, adding, "I saw a big red ball."   Continued...

World War Two pilot Henry Heim is pictured beside a B-17 bomber at the New Cumberland Airport in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania in 2010. REUTERS/Jeffrey Roth