PHOTO: Locals and Veterans gather at the GE Hill Bridge crossing Little River Canyon to remember the Pearl Harbor attack, which happened 76 years ago today. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941.
These words, spoken to Congress after the surprise attack on the military base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, would mark the beginning of America's involvement in World War II.
For the 8th consecutive year, locals and veterans gather at the G.E. Hill Bridge that crosses Little River Canyon on Highway 35 to commemorate those lost on that infamous day, specifically, those that perished on the USS Arizona from Alabama.
Among the 2,403 casualties at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were lost when one battleship was sunk in the harbor. The battleship USS Arizona went to the bottom after eight bomb hits; with one bomb glancing off a gun turret, and penetrating the deck to explode in the ship's powder magazines.
The official website for the USS Arizona memorial lists 34 crew members from Alabama that lost their lives in the sinking of the mighty warship. 1400 men were assigned to the ship at the time of the attack, giving a staggering casualty rate of 84 percent.
This year, members of the Fort Payne High School JROTC program presented and retired the colors; including flags representing the five branches of the military. Music was performed by the Geraldine and Sylvania High School Marching Bands.
John Keller of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #3128 in Fort Payne served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event, and is also the organizer for the event each year.
"Believe it or not, and I heard on the news here recently, there are only four survivors left from the USS Arizona. This is to commemorate those from Alabama that lost their lives," said Keller.
The names of the casualties from Alabama were read aloud and a 21-gun salute for these men was performed by the Honor Guard of American Legion Post #5 from Rome, Georgia. The bugler for the honor guard, Bob Bennett, is 91 years old and still performing his duties at memorials and military funerals.
At the end of the ceremony, the traditional wreath was cast off the bridge by Keller and members of the Geraldine High School Band.
Local businesses and members of the community pitched in to make the event a success. Traci's flowers donated the wreath, and Stephen's Automotive Shop and Stevi B's of Fort Payne also pitched in.
The Keller and Jimenez Families also donated Sandwiches and Chili to the meal held after the event at the Little River Canyon Center.