For the first time in 70 years, 24 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack returned to Hawaii to commemorate the anniversary of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II.
The survivors were members of the U.S. Army, Army Air Corps, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard who managed to live through the Japanese attack on the USS Arizona in the waters off of the Pacific island of Oahu, Hawaii.
Memorial events are taking place throughout the country to commentate the anniversary, including an annual ceremony hosted by the Navy and National Park Service.
The ceremony takes place at a site that overlooks where the USS Arizona sank in the bombing.
Among the 3,000 people expected to gather at the Oahu ceremony are 24 survivors of the attack.
Some of the survivors of the “Day of Infamy” attending the ceremony include 90-year-old Bob Kerr and 96-year-old Archie Gregory. The survivors have been sent to the ceremony by The Greatest Generations Foundation.
“It’s important for people to know that there was such a thing as an attack in 1941 on Dec. 7,” Kerr said to CNN in a podcast video.
“It’s part of history. It’s one of the biggest events in our history. 9/11 may equal it, but it can’t be forgotten,” he added.
Gregory discussed his experience on the fatal day that Japan struck the U.S. during a Monday event at the Pacific Aviation Museum.
“All of the sudden, the Arizona blew up, and I was blown over into the water,” Gregory shared. “Then, the planes came back and machine gunned each guy, right at that time.”
U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement marking the historic day and calling for a National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to honor our military “past and present.”
“On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more that 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow,” Obama said.
“As a Nation, we look to Dec. 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.”