PORTLAND, Maine — If Bert Davis were still alive, he probably would have begun Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day just as he always did in the past: He’d have woken up, rolled over and looked at the flagpoles at the school across the street to make sure they were flying at half staff.
“If they weren’t, he would have been on the phone telling them to put it down,” said Jo Davis, his widow, during a Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony Monday in Portland. “He would have gone right over there, and he wouldn’t have stopped until the flags were lowered.”
Bert Davis, a Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor attack survivor, died in 2013, but his wife promised that she’d do whatever she could to honor his memory every year on Dec. 7, the anniversary of the Japanese Navy’s 1941 surprise attack on U.S. vessels and crews at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On a day-to-day basis, that means talking to his pictures, which are displayed near her bed.
“I woke up today and said, ‘Bert, today’s the day,’” said Davis, who still carries some of her husband’s remains in a locket around her neck. “If he were still alive today, he would have been here, no matter how old or how sick he was. He would have been here.”
Monday’s ceremony at Fort Allen Park in Portland was fittingly held among the park’s remnants of the USS Portland, a World War II-era heavy cruiser that famously accepted the Japanese surrender of the Truk Island air and naval base on Sept. 7, 1945.
George Nanos, a Navy veteran and military historian from Portland, said he was disappointed that more people don’t turn out to memorialize Pearl Harbor.
“Pearl Harbor isn’t just something that happened a long time ago,” said Nanos. “That event became a focal point for America going forward from just being a nation to becoming a world power.”
Among the guest speakers was Gov. Paul LePage, who remembered World War II heroes as just regular people caught up in the seminal moment of U.S. history.
“They were just trying to make their way in life like everybody else,” said LePage. “As my wife says, when you sign up for the military, you’re signing a blank check that’s often called much too early.”
LePage encouraged veterans and their families to participate in a program called the Legacy Project, in which the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services record the oral histories of World War II veterans and their families. To be involved, call 430-5816.