Nation marks 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

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SAN DIEGO -- The 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor will be commemorated Wednesday aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum.

The 9 a.m. event will include, among other things, a wreath dedication and reading of names of Pearl Harbor survivors who have died in the past year.

The anniversary is a stark reminder of the passage of time since the attack in light of the dwindling number of survivors. San Diego traditionally had the largest chapter of Pearl Harbor survivors, but the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that just 19 attended a recent meeting.

Ray Chavez, a 104-year-old Poway resident, is among a handful of San Diegans who traveled to Hawaii to mark the anniversary. His ship, the minesweeper USS Condor, was the first to spot a periscope from a Japanese midget submarine that tried to find its way into the harbor but was sunk.

By the time Japanese aircraft roared overhead, Chavez -- believed to be the oldest survivor of the raid -- was off-duty and home. He raced back to his post, where he remained for a week.

Also Wednesday, the San Diego Air & Space Museum will display rare items from the raid, including pieces of all three types of Japanese aircraft shot down that day.

"The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is a seminal day in United States history, and remembering it and the impact it had on our country is an important part of who we are as Americans," said Jim Kidrick, museum president and CEO. "Pearl Harbor served as a catalyst for our entire country -- it united us like never before. We're proud to have these rare items on display."

The items in the exhibit are on loan to the museum from a private collector.

The surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on U.S. Navy and Army facilities in Hawaii launched a divided and unprepared U.S. into World War II.

More than 2,300 servicemen were killed and around 20 ships destroyed or heavily damaged, including eight battleships. However, aircraft carriers based at Pearl Harbor were at sea that morning and escaped damage.

The Japanese victory was also mitigated because valuable oil tanks and dry docks suffered little damage. Five of the battleships were later repaired and returned to service, helping to reverse Japanese progress in the war.

President Obama marks 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

President Barack Obama marked the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Wednesday by honoring those who gave their lives that day.

"Over 2,400 American patriots lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor -- military and civilian, men, women and children," Obama said in a statement.

"Their sacrifice galvanized millions of GIs and Rosie the Riveters who answered the call to defend liberty at its moment of maximum peril. In the hours after the attack, President Roosevelt promised that 'the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.' Thanks to the heroism of a generation, we did."

The President noted that he would be making a historic visit to the USS Arizona Memorial later this month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"As a testament that even the most bitter of adversaries can become the closest of allies, I look forward to visiting the USS Arizona Memorial later this month along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," he said. "This historic visit will stand as a tribute to the power of reconciliation and to the truth that the United States and Japan -- bound by an alliance unimaginable 75 years ago---will continue to work hand-in-hand for a more peaceful and secure world."

Abe is the first Japanese leader to visit the site since the end of World War II.

"President Obama's message for the world without nuclear upon his visit to Hiroshima was engraved in the heart of the Japanese people," Abe said earlier this month. "I will visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama. This will be a visit to soothe the souls of the victims. We should never repeat the ravages of the war."

In May, Obama was the first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima, where in 1945 the US military dropped a nuclear bomb killing more than 100,000 Japanese men, women and children.

Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor is thought to be a way of reciprocating the commitment shown by Obama to Japan-US relations.