December 7, 2011 / 8:58 PM / 7 years ago

Survivors remember Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago

MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina (Reuters) - Four survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were honored aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor on Wednesday, the 70th anniversary of the battle that brought the United States into World War Two.

The U.S. Navy battleship USS California is seen ablaze after an attack by Japanese carrier based strike aircraft on the Hawaiian port of Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in which over 2,400 members of the United States military were killed. Picture taken December 7, 1941. REUTERS/U.S. Navy Photograph/Newscom/Handout

The sneak attack in Hawaii in 1941 killed nearly 2,400 American service members and wounded more than 1,100.

Don Ralph, 89, said was an Army private first class and an X-ray technician at Hickam Field near Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the attack began early in the morning.

A self-described “hillbilly from Kentucky,” Ralph lives in Manning, South Carolina. He said he has never seen another day like the attack, and “thank God, I hope I never do.”

“I drove an ambulance,” he said. “I picked up people and brought them to the hospital. The old saying is ‘All gave some, and some gave all.’ The American people remember and appreciate it.”

Survivor George W. Denton, 89, who lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, said a hotel now stands on his Army unit’s parade ground near Waikiki Beach. A tech sergeant, his unit fired two 14-inch guns on Japanese ships, he said.

When asked what this anniversary means to him, Denton’s eyes teared up and he could not speak.

David “Buck’ Morris, 86, a signalman aboard the destroyer Phelps at Pearl Harbor in 1941, said he went on to serve “five years, two months and 10 days” in the Navy. The anniversary “just brings back so many memories for those of us who were there,” he said.

Ed Crews, 94, was the other survivor on hand. He said he was serving with a flying boats unit at the time of the attack.

The remembrance ceremony brought about 350 people to the hangar deck of the World War Two aircraft carrier and included color guards, honor guards, “Taps” and a roll call of 25 known South Carolinian who died at Pearl Harbor.

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors groups threw 57 evergreen wreaths into Charleston Harbor.

“We made huge mistakes on that day and in the months leading up to the attack, both strategic and tactical errors,” said retired Navy Rear Admiral Robert Besal in remarks to the crowd of veterans and citizens. “We were caught completely off guard.”

“Remarkably, it took us with our righteous might less than four years ... to force the Japanese to an unconditional surrender. Such is the power of a nation totally united in a single purpose.”

Besal warned against “an apparition of the Japanese empire of the past: a growing China with a huge population, an exploding industrial capability and a voracious appetite for natural resources and energy.”

China has embarked on a “hearts and mind campaign” and its military capability “bears close watching,” Besal said.

Editing by Jerry Norton

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