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Big Run vets remember Pearl Harbor

December 5, 2011

Richard Cessna (left) and John Frampton of the Jefferson County Veterans' Honor Guard are shown saluting the members of the military who died Dec. 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Big Run VFW No. 9044 held its annual "Remembering Pearl Harbor Day" Sunday at the Big Run War Memorial. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

BIG RUN — "Seventy years ago, Dec. 7, 1941, the sky over Pear Harbor, Hawaii, was filled with Japanese planes.

"When the last wave of attacking aircraft rejoined the Japanese fleet, 1,178 Americans lay wounded, and 2,403 lay dead or dying, and a great portion of the U.S. was in shambles.

"Thus began America's entry into World War II — five years that changed the world," Big Run VFW Post No. 9044 Commander James Pallone said at a memorial service Sunday at the Big Run War Memorial, to remember those who were lost in the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Pallone said the United States returned from World War II as the world's greatest military and economic power.

America was the world's peacekeeper and a symbol of freedom and liberty for all, Pallone said, adding that Sunday's service was to pay
homage to those who paid the price for America's greatness.

"That Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, servicemen were killed as they ran to man their battle stations," he said. "Families across our nation listened in horror as the radio announced the destruction and death.”

Big Run Mayor Joseph Buterbaugh also offered a history of Pearl Harbor.
"Dec. 7, 1941, the Pacific Fleet was in port at Pearl Harbor, except for aircraft carriers and a few others," Buterbaugh said. "Ships' crews were on liberty, except for a few commanding officers; and military personnel were going to church, eating breakfast, golfing, enjoying a beautiful morning.

"A radar operator noticed a large amount of planes approaching shortly before the attack (and) notified his superior officer who said not to worry, they had a flight of B-17s coming in from the mainland that morning, and that is probably what he saw, dismissing the warning.

"Shortly thereafter, the Japanese planes arrived in waves, bombing, torpedoing, strafing the ships and aircraft, he said. "Within an hour or so our aircraft were destroyed, our Pacific Fleet in shambles with ships sunk, damaged and out of commission."

Pallone said it is for those men and women and their families that Sunday's service was held.

"So, as we gather to remember those lost on this anniversary of Pear Harbor, it is time to say thank you," Pallone said, adding the VFW wanted to thank the 2,403 victims of Pearl Harbor "for whom the beginning was also the end."

"Thank you to every man, woman and child who paid a price so that we might stand here today," Pallone said.

Gene McKee, Big Run VFW Post No. 9044 vice-commander, was the featured speaker for the annual event and said he served in the Navy in the Atlantic during World War II.

McKee served on the USS Portsmouth in the Atlantic until Germany surrendered and the Atlantic Theatre of war was over. McKee was reassigned to participate in the planned invasions of Japan in November 1945, which never occurred due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan that ended the war.

"It was estimated that only 50 percent of our fighting men and women who would have participated would have come home alive," McKee said, adding that it was discovered that Japan was within six months of perfecting its own atomic bomb.

"Seventy years later, with U.S. military forces fighting wars sparked by another sneak attack (9/11), Pearl Harbor remains both an active military base and a monument to a titanic struggle fought across millions of square miles of ocean," he said. "For the dwindling number of veterans who served in World War II — particularly those who call themselves Pearl Harbor survivors — it is both a rallying call and a sobering reminder of the grim sacrifice required to achieve victory."
Pallone said in closing that the Big Run VFW recalled an event that changed the course of history and the destiny of civilization.

"Seventy years ago, the attack on Pearl Harbor awoke a sleeping giant, and with it produced what has been called the 'greatest generation,'" he said, adding that day of infamy produced many U.S. casualties: 3,500 dead or wounded; 18 ships sunk or damaged; and more than 350 aircraft destroyed.

"Although it was a day of great tragedy, it also was a day that served to revive and replenish our national pride and our great national spirit," Pallone said.

Robert Lott, Big Run VFW adjutant, thanked those who assisted with the program, including Shane Johns, Mickey DeChurch and Jake Smith for the special music and the Jefferson County Veterans' Honor Guard.

The next Big Run VFW Post No. 9044 program is scheduled for April 29, in celebration of Loyalty Day.

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