NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — On Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a massive aerial attack on the headquarters of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, killing 2,335 US service members while wounding an additional 1,143 in the first attack by a foreign power on US since the War of 1812, propelling the Americans into World War II and making that Sunday morning a date which President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “will live in infamy.”
On board one of those ships attacked at Pearl Harbor, the USS Curtiss, 19-year-old US Navy Storekeeper John D. Harrington of Fall River, Massachusetts was among those wounded. At his battle station with four other sailors, Harrington was the lone survivor.
Only a day short of the 78th anniversary of the attack, the impact of the attack could still be felt by his daughter, Ann Marie Marshall of North Kingstown, who recalled and honored her father and others who served as she led the town’s annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony and wreath laying Friday morning.
“It’s very important to me personally to keep this memory alive and the time that it took place and how America (and) Americans pulled together to protect what they truly love, and that is the United States of America,” Marshall said.
Marshall read from a telegram sent to her grandmother informing her that he had been wounded in battle, which was displayed next to an article from The Herald News describing his full recovery upon his return to Fall River in 1944.
The ceremony, held at the Beechwood Senior Center, featured performances of patriotic music from the Governor’s 88th Band as well as a Color Guard from the VFW Post 152. A proclamation of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day from Gov. Gina Raimondo was also read by the state’s Director of Veterans Affairs and North Kingstown resident Kasim Yarn.
After Marshall’s introduction, chaplain and retired US Army Lt. Col. Lee Hardgrove recalled his own parents’ experience of the day in New York City, which happened to be his mother’s 25th birthday and the first time his father met her parents.
After running out on an errand, his father, who had heard news of the attack, returned as an enlisted member of the Army.
Hardgrove then led the group in prayer, honoring and thanking those who served and sacrificed at both Pearl Harbor and in all conflicts since as well as ask for protection of those men and women currently serving in the US Armed Forces.
Yarn, a US Navy veteran, thanked those in attendance and read off a proclamation from Raimondo to honor those lost in both the attack and survivors that are no longer with us, before assisting the Color Guard and Marshall in laying a wreath in their honor as the 88th Band played Taps.
The attack on Pearl Harbor left at least two Rhode Island servicemen dead: George Ernest Perkins of Cranston and Alvaro Everett Vieira of Portsmouth, both of whom were aboard the USS Arizona.
Among those in attendance were widows of servicemen as well as 94-year-old World War II veteran and North Kingstown resident George Silva. Silva, originally from Massachusetts, served in both a merchant marine in the Atlantic and on board the USS Atlanta in the Pacific with the Navy, and was in Japan when the nation surrendered to the Americans. He later returned to service after the war as a member of the Coast Guard.
“I think it’s very nice of (Marshall), especially (that) she’s not forgetting the veterans, especially her father, and I find it very emotional,” Silva said. “It’s always good to see these people who still remember, that’s what’s important, and I hope that it will go that way for many years to come.”
For Randy Wietman, a Navy veteran, it’s important to honor and learn from those who served in World War II while they’re still here and to make sure their legacy is continued.
“I think that it’s particularly important that we take the time to recognize their service because they’re passing away right now and we don’t have many of the World War II veterans remaining, so we need to capture what they did, acknowledge it and ask them questions and see what we can get from them,” Wietman said.
“I just think it’s nice that these communities, and our community probably does it better than most, acknowledge the sacrifice of our service members,” Wietman added. “It’s just nice to get together once in a while and do that. Military service is pretty unique as you might expect in that you literally put your life on the line and you know that’s what you’re doing, so it’s never anything that we should take very lightly and I love that we get together and do those sorts of things.”
For North Kingstown Councilwoman Mary Brimer, the day was close to her heart as both the daughter and granddaughter of veterans. The date marked the fifth anniversary of the death of her father, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Her grandfather served in the Marine Corps during World War II and later in the reserves until his 70s.
Brimer recalled growing up watching her grandfather lead the Color Guard at the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony at Allen Harbor and going with him to the Enlisted Club where she met other World War II veterans.
“I remember Pearl Harbor veterans that lived here in this community, so it’s just very emotional to be here today and participate in the ceremony,” Brimer said. “They did a beautiful job, the Governor’s 88th band did a great job and the prayers were just very uplifting. It’s important to remember this day and what it means is significant.”
For Town Council President Greg Mancini, the importance of remembering the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation couldn’t be understated.
“They truly were the Greatest Generation, and we need more generations to have the same dedication and commitment as this generation did,” Mancini said.
For Marshall, the importance of the day was honoring her father and all those who fought at Pearl Harbor and keeping their part of history alive. She still says she is amazed by their bravery and dedication to the protection of their loved ones and country as a whole and hopes all Americans continue to understand and appreciate the importance of their sacrifice and support their Armed Force.
“It’s very important that (the military) is what keeps this country strong,” Marshall said, adding “I just want to thank everybody that helped make this ceremony very positive and upbeat.”