Remembering attack on Pearl Harbor

Survivors, families attend memorial aboard Taney at Inner Harbor

December 08, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Mary Jo Hill was 8 years old, living on Hawaii's North Shore, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Her mother thought the attack was an Army-Navy training exercise. It wasn't until her father, an Army doctor on duty, called home that the family realized the bombing was real.

Warren Coligny, a then-20-year-old Navy ship-fitter second class, was just waking up for duty that fateful Sunday morning. He was supposed to be leaving the island the next day. He spent the next few months patrolling the island.

Hugh Roper, an Army air corpsman from Baltimore, was at Hickam Field when the Japanese flew in. The man next to him didn't survive the attack. Roper, then 20, went on to serve 24 years as an Army captain - many of them as a pilot.

"It's a day you'll never, ever forget, nor should you," Roper said at a memorial ceremony yesterday aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney, the last surviving warship of the Pearl Harbor attack now docked at Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor.

Some of the World War II veterans and their families came aboard with tears in their eyes.

"I thought it was significant that the anniversary was on a Sunday," said Ann Herring of White Hall, who - like her sister Mary Jo Hill of Cockeysville - remembers the Sunday attack. "We've been talking about coming for a while. We decided it was past time to do this."

Their father, Dr. Joseph Belz, died in 1983 after retiring in Hawaii.

The number of survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack is dwindling, with about 128 remaining in Maryland. The names of veterans who died this past year were read aloud during the ceremony.

Many people see the survivors' stories and memories as more relevant than ever, especially as they speak of similarities between the 1941 bombings and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Have we remembered? Have we learned?" asked Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, in his address to the crowd aboard the cutter yesterday. "I ponder those questions when I think about where we are today with our global war on terror. ... As our nation did in World War II, every citizen, every soldier, every sailor, every Marine and every airman must keep his or her efforts to the task at hand - to combat terrorism."

Among those paying tribute to members of the military were U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Mayor Martin O'Malley.

A city police helicopter dropped a wreath into the Inner Harbor just before 1 p.m. local time, almost exactly when the attack on Pearl Harbor had begun 62 years ago.

"I can't forget that day," said Coligny of Laurel, one of five Pearl Harbor survivors who attended the service on the ship's deck in the chilly wind.

The Taney helped protect the Honolulu power plant in December 1941 and then served as a command post during the invasion of Okinawa.

It saw service in the Vietnam War and was used to intercept drug trafficking in the early 1980s. The 2,700-ton warship was presented to the Baltimore Maritime Museum in 1986.

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