BANGOR, Maine — The Japanese Imperial Navy’s surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, claimed the lives of nearly 2,400 Americans and struck a devastating blow to the United State’s ability to strike back.
Among the fallen was Pfc. Willard Carleton Orr, the only Bangor resident to be killed in the deadly assault. Orr, who graduated from Bangor High School in 1939, was serving as a cook at Hickam Field when Japanese bombers unleashed their payloads. His remains were never identified.
On Saturday, 72 years after the attack that launched the United States into World War II, about 100 area residents gathered on the Bangor footbridge that stretches from Pickering Square across the Kenduskeag Stream to Exchange Street. That footbridge carries a plaque honoring Orr’s memory.
“When I think of the sacrifice of Pfc. Willard Carleton Orr, I think of the sacrifice of an entire generation,” City Council Chairman Ben Sprague said during the event.
Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Mike Michaud wrote letters to be read at the event. Collins wrote that “today, we remember those who perished and those who answered with courage and resolve.”
In a statement released Saturday, Rep. Chellie Pingree wrote, “Today, we pause to remember the thousands of Americans who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the millions more who sacrificed during the war that followed. They successfully defended our country from the forces of tyranny and oppression. We owe them our thanks and gratitude.”
City Councilor Nelson Durgin, a former Maine adjutant general, said the Japanese forgot to factor in something when they attacked Pearl Harbor hoping to break the country’s will: “American resilience.”
At the close of Saturday’s ceremony, a single wreath was dropped from the walkway into the waters of Kenduskeag Stream. It floated slowly floated down the Kenduskeag toward the Penobscot River. A naval hymn played, followed by a gun salute and the playing of taps.