BANGOR, Maine — Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day pays homage to the historic and tragic day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, taking nearly 2,400 lives 68 years ago, and it should never be forgotten, veterans say.
World War II veteran Paul Colburn, 85, is a U.S. Army veteran who, along with other area veterans, decided 26 years ago to hold an annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony in Bangor to honor those who died and the 1,178 who were injured.
This year’s wreath-laying ceremony will be held at noon Monday, Dec. 7, at Kenduskeag Plaza behind Bank of America.
Lt. Col. Eric Johns, of the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing, will give a tribute and cast a wreath into the water. Ron Smith, Norman N. Dow VFW Post 1761 commander, will be the master of ceremonies.
The Rev. Carl Schreiber will provide a prayer and the benediction. The Bangor High School band will perform the national anthem, and the school’s Junior ROTC will provide a gun salute.
Mayor Richard Stone, representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud are expected to give short speeches, and Councilor Hal Wheeler will play taps.
After the ceremony at Kenduskeag Stream, participants are invited to attend a fish or corn chowder lunch at the VFW Hall on Hammond Street.
Willard C. Orr, a 1939 Bangor High School graduate, was the only Bangor resident to die at Pearl Harbor in the Japanese attack. His name is listed on the first page of the World War II Book of Honor at Bangor Public Library. He was working as head cook at Hickam Field when the first bombs were dropped on the Pacific island that December Sunday.
Colburn, who is a Bangor native, said he was at church with his family on Park Street when he heard that the U.S. was under attack. He was 17.
“Someone went by and said, ‘Did you hear the news?’ and I said, ‘What’s the news?’” he recalled. “He said, ‘They’re bombing Pearl Harbor.’”
After learning of the dead in Hawaii, Colburn, like many young men of the era, felt compelled to join the military.
“I felt terrible,” he said. “I really did. I said right then and there I had to do something.”