Ceremony held to remember Pearl Harbor
Two dozen men and women, from elderly veterans to young children, gathered around the lowered flags at the North Carolina Veterans Memorial in Broadway on Saturday, the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"The memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor fueled our desire to fight on, despite early losses," retired Navy submariner Dick Kanning told the crowd.
Kanning served, first as an enlisted man and later as an officer, from 1961-81. He said he was only an infant when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and that some of his first memories were the parades held in his New Jersey hometown after the war ended.
So he said he's upset that it seems like schools don't put much emphasis on World War II, and Pearl Harbor specifically, anymore. He said he's concerned the country is losing sight of its history, especially as seven decades separate then and now.
"(Young people) don't appreciate what the Navy went through," Kanning said. "They think, 'Well, it was before my time, I don't need to learn about it because it happened before I was born, and it doesn't affect me."
Tim Stone, who served from 1986-2010 in both the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, had a similar reason for wanting to attend the ceremony.
"I believe in that old adage that if you don't remember your history, you're doomed to repeat it," he said.
Stone's last posting was as a Coast Guard instructor at Camp Lejeune, and he said that in terms of lessons to be learned from the destruction at Pearl Harbor, the biggest one was that it's important to never put all your eggs in one basket.
"One of the main things that came out of Pearl Harbor was that — was the high percentage of the fleet there," he said. "That's why the Japanese attacked us there. They knew that's where almost our entire fleet was."
Most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was indeed damaged or destroyed that day, along with several hundred aircraft and more than 3,600 troops and civilians wounded or killed. But perhaps the Navy's two biggest strengths — aircraft carriers and submarines — went unscathed.
Kanning proudly declared, after the memorial had ended, that submarines won the Pacific Theatre for the U.S. in World War II — despite taking heavy casualties — by successfully stopping many Japanese merchant ships as well as warships. Ultimately, it was the two atomic bombs dropped on mainland Japan which compelled surrender, possibly saving the life of Sam McArthur and thousands of others preparing to launch an attack on Japan's home islands.
McArthur, a Lee County resident, was drafted into the Navy in 1944 after failing a grade in high school — which he now says, with a laugh, was just about the surest way to get drafted. He was sent to the Pacific and was working in the engine room of an amphibious assault ship when Fat Man and Little Boy, as the bombs were called, fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
"We were practicing with landing craft to do a shore assault," he said. "We could fit 200 soldiers onto each boat. But it never came."
Four years before, when news of the sneak attack reached Sanford, McArthur was working with a few other teens unloading welding equipment for a local trucking company when their boss came in and interrupted the work.
"He said, 'Boys, all hell just broke loose.' And then he told us about Pearl Harbor."