BANGOR, Maine — Veterans, active duty military, area residents and politicians from around the region gathered on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor to remember the fallen, and those who have put on military uniforms to follow in their footsteps.
Chief Master Sgt. Dan Moore, command chief of the 101st Air Refueling Wing, was the keynote speaker and reminded everyone who gathered on the pedestrian bridge that bears the name of Willard C. Orr, a 1939 Bangor High School graduate who was the only Bangor resident to die in the Japanese bombardment, about who was serving on the Pacific island when the U.S. was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and thrust into World War II.
“They came from nearly every state in the union, from Maine to California, from Texas to Minnesota,” Moore said of the 2,403 fallen. “A diverse group of Americans who in death found unanimity as Pearl Harbor casualties. Heroes who in life and in service found unity through their sworn oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. Now, here on the 75th anniversary of that tragic day, you and I gather to remember and honor their sacrifice.”
Seventy-five years ago, Japanese aircraft were able to fly nearly undetected to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where they bombed and torpedoed the Navy fleet docked there. Twenty-one ships were sunk or badly damaged, 350 aircraft destroyed or damaged and 3,500 people killed or wounded, according to a history from the U.S. Navy.
Bangor’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, because of the historic 75th anniversary, started with a parade of veterans that began at the waterfront and made its way to the walking bridge, with patriotic music provided by the Bangor High School band. Several area veterans groups were represented.
Bangor City Council Chairman Joe Baldacci, who spoke after representatives from Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, described the veterans who served seven decades ago and in the time since as heroes.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Baldacci said, just before members of the Navy Operational Support Center in Bangor performed a ceremonial wreath-laying from the bridge.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day event coordinator Samuel Cannon, who took over last year for longtime organizer and World War II veteran Paul Colburn, set aside time to honor Colburn, U.S. Marine Paul Wilbur and Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Coles.
Colburn thanked local musician Hal Wheeler for his years of playing taps at the annual memorial, and said, “It’s nice to be a spectator,” which got him a round of applause and laughter.
“At [age] 17 he quit high school to go fight for this county,” Cannon said of Wilbur.
When it came to Coles, Cannon described him as one of three Mainers who survived the attack, and added that American Legion Post No. 9, based in Machias, raised $13,000 to send him to Hawaii this week for the 75th anniversary.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to go to Pearl Harbor with President Barack Obama later this month and will be the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the attack, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Navy veteran Barry Robertson, who is a member of Bangor’s Dow-Clewley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1761, said it is about time.
“I think it’s great,” Robertson said. “We’re all working together. We’re not at war anymore and it’s good we can live in peace.”
Moore also called for coming together, but his call was to make America stronger.
“Some say America is broken, [that] her best days are behind her, that you are powerless to change the pathway we’re on. What’s done is done,” the commander said. “I don’t believe that. I believe that is exactly what those opposed to our way of life would choose to have us believe. By convincing us this is true, they are in hopes we will give up our ability to change the world — that we will forgo our opportunity and responsibility to be involved.
“If you truly want to honor the Pearl Harbor fallen and their sacrifice, then I ask you to live out the ideals for which they fought and for which they died,” Moore said. “I ask you to bring justice where you see inequality, to choose integrity where there is deceitfulness and lies, to choose hope over despair, to offer peace where and when there is conflict and strife, to choose love, [and] to fight for freedom when oppression and persecution emerge.”
He ended his speech by asking residents to create a better world through daily action.
“If we truly want things to get better, then we must strive to be better,” Moore said. “I ask you to be involved.”
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Cook of the 195th Army Band ended the annual wreath-laying event by playing taps.