Today’s anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is neither a “zero” nor a “five” anniversary. It’s the 71st, not a particularly compelling number, except to note that the number of years since 1941 is larger than the number of veterans expected to attend the commemoration in Honolulu.
Only about 50 are expected. That’s not bad, considering that most of those who survived the attack are dead and most of those still with us are in their late 80s or 90s. It’s not known exactly how many veterans remain, but the number is only a few thousand.
The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded at the end of 2011. Its leaders said dwindling numbers and the poor health of those left made it impossible to carry on.
Some veterans lament the ignorance of many Americans today about Dec. 7, 1941. But some of the sons and daughters of veterans are continuing some of the association’s work, and there is a slightly younger group of those who were children in Hawaii at the time of the attack, not soldiers or sailors but witnesses, and they remember too.
Veterans and others who fear the loss of living history can take heart in knowing that while the brotherhood is passing away, the usual numbers are expected to attend ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial today. People remember. The old enemy has long been an ally, but that white memorial over the tomb that is the sunken USS Arizona is a simple, quiet keeper of memory. So is the thought of a father, an uncle, a spouse.
The ranks are old and thin. We remember them nonetheless.