On December 7, 2013 the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad commemorated the 72nd Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Veteran community gathered to honor and remember this war, those who fought, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As each year passes, we continue to remember those who lost their lives, and celebrate those who are still with us.
At this year’s event we celebrated with George Vandersluis and Richard Thill, the two Pearl Harbor Survivors in attendance. Richard Thill was given a standing ovation as he entered the room. For many in attendance it was humbling to be in the presence of these Pearl Harbor Survivors. At the ceremony we remembered Edward Wentzlaff, a USS Arizona Survivor and Minnesota Veteran who died this year. Wentzlaff’s ashes were placed in an urn which U.S Navy divers interred in the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 2013. There he will lay to rest and spend eternity with his crewmates.
Many know the story of Pearl Harbor, but what few realize is that on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, a group of Naval Reservists from St. Paul, Minnesota were serving aboard the USS Ward. They were conducting a patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor when they encountered a Japanese Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarine attempting to sneak into the harbor. They attacked and sank the submarine, thus firing the first American shots of World War II. Unfortunately their messages of the attack went unnoticed and shortly after, the Japanese began their attack on the Pacific Fleet.
The Navy recognized the historical significance of the 4-inch/50 caliber gun. The number three gun, which fired the first American shot of WWII, now sits on the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds near the west side of the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul. As President Roosevelt said, this day will always be “a date which will live in infamy.”
Each year the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Memorial Rifle Squad host a remembrance ceremony to honor those who served, and remember those who gave their lives in the defense of Pearl Harbor.
To see photos from this year’s event the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Flickr page.