Los Angeles: It was an attack that shaped history, leaving more than 2,400 Americans dead and forcing the United States to enter a war it had been reluctant to join.
On Sunday (Dec 8 – 3am Malaysian time), the 78th anniversary of the 1941 sneak attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour, the remains of one of the survivors of the assault will be interred on his sunken ship, the USS Arizona.
Lauren Bruner, who was among the last sailors rescued from the Arizona as it exploded into flames and sank, died in September at age 98.
He had expressed in years past his wish to be buried alongside fellow sailors who died on that fateful day.
“It’s a historical event and this is the last surviving crewman of the USS Arizona being returned to his ship and his shipmates,” said Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman Jay Blount.
Bruner will be the 44th USS Arizona survivor interred on the ship. The remaining three living sailors who survived the attack have asked to be laid to rest with their families.
One of them, 98-year-old Lou Conter, will be attending the memorial at the USS Arizona Memorial Park in Hawaii, alongside some 120 members of Bruner’s family.
Following the late-afternoon ceremony, National Park Service and military divers will take the urn containing Bruner’s ashes and lower it to his final resting place in the hull of the ship’s wreckage, Blount said.
Bruner was among six men who had gathered at the back of the doomed battleship on Dec 7, 1941 as Japanese warplanes bombed the ship, when a sailor on board a nearby vessel threw them a line.
The 21-year-old, who was badly burned and had been shot twice in the leg, managed to grab the rope that pulled him and his comrades to safety.
At the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the surprise attack on the US Navy base near Honolulu as “a date which will live in infamy.”
A total of 1,177 sailors and Marines on board the USS Arizona were killed and more than 900 could not be recovered from the ship, according to the National Park Service.
Bruner went on to fight after recovering from his injuries, taking part in battles in the Aleutian Islands and in the South Pacific. He retired from the Navy in 1947.
He explained his decision to have the urn containing his cremated remains interred in the sunken ship during a 2014 news conference.
“Well, I studied it for a long time,” Stars and Stripes quoted him as saying. “All my family and friends have been buried in various places, cemeteries.
“But it seems like after a while, nobody pays attention to them anymore after about five years. I hope that a lot of people will still be coming to the Arizona. I would be glad to see them.”
The ceremony will take place three days after a disgruntled sailor at a Pearl Harbour navy base shot dead two people before killing himself.
Another shooter — a Saudi military trainee — on Friday opened fire at a navy base in Florida, killing three people before he was gunned down.
Officials said security will be beefed up during the ceremony to mark the Pearl Harbor attack’s anniversary. – AFP