Northeast Times

Remembering Pearl Harbor

The 70th an­niversary of the Ja­pan­ese bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor is Wed­nes­day, Dec. 7, and Dav­id Chris­ti­an wants to see Amer­ic­an flags fly­ing wherever he looks.

ldquo;How many people in your neigh­bor­hood will put a flag out for Pearl Har­bor?” he asked more than 250 fel­low vet­er­ans and guests dur­ing a Fri­day morn­ing break­fast and ce­re­mony at the Blair Mill Inn in Hor­sham.

Chris­ti­an, a dec­or­ated Vi­et­nam War vet­er­an, was the key­note speak­er at the event, co-sponsored by state Reps. Tom Murt and Todd Steph­ens.

The law­makers honored se­lec­ted vet­er­ans from Phil­adelphia and Mont­gomery County, present­ing each with a cer­ti­fic­ate. Murt’s cur­rent dis­trict in­cludes Philmont Heights and will add Bustleton un­der a pre­lim­in­ary re­dis­trict­ing plan.

Chris­ti­an, 63, served in the U.S. Army from 1966-70, rising to the rank of cap­tain. He was crit­ic­ally in­jured by nap­alm in Janu­ary 1969.

Dur­ing his time in the Army, he earned nu­mer­ous awards for acts of val­or on the bat­tle­field and twice was nom­in­ated for the Con­gres­sion­al Medal of Hon­or. He has long been act­ive in help­ing re­turn­ing vet­er­ans to find work and make the trans­ition to ci­vil­ian life.

Today, he is pres­id­ent of a Holmes­burg-based de­fense man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany that builds ground-sup­port equip­ment for U.S. Navy air­craft car­ri­ers. He is seek­ing the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion for U.S. Sen­ate in 2012.

Chris­ti­an was raised in Levit­town and is a gradu­ate of the former Woo­drow Wilson High School. His mom, Dorothy, was an aide to Gen. Douglas Ma­cAr­thur dur­ing World War II.

In the early stages of that war, the U.S. ad­op­ted a largely isol­a­tion­ist strategy. Amer­ic­ans wanted no part of the war in Europe.

On Sunday morn­ing, Dec. 7, 1941, that all changed when Ja­pan at­tacked the U.S. Nav­al Base at Pearl Har­bor, Hawaii. More than 2,400 Amer­ic­ans were killed, and al­most 1,300 wounded, dur­ing the two-hour bomb­ing. Four battle­ships were sunk, and 188 air­craft des­troyed.

Pres­id­ent Frank­lin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in in­famy.” The pres­id­ent went on to tell Con­gress in his Dec. 8 ad­dress that, “No mat­ter how long it may take us to over­come this pre­med­it­ated in­va­sion, the Amer­ic­an people in their right­eous might will win through to ab­so­lute vic­tory.”

Amer­ic­ans de­man­ded re­tri­bu­tion. That day, the United States de­clared war on Ja­pan. “Their sneak at­tack would serve as a ral­ly­ing cry,” said Murt, a vet­er­an of the Ir­aq War, who cred­ited the “Greatest Gen­er­a­tion” of World War II-era Amer­ic­ans with win­ning the war.

Chris­ti­an said the Ja­pan­ese awoke a “sleep­ing gi­ant called the United States of Amer­ica.”

The crowd at last week’s event did not in­clude any Pearl Har­bor sur­viv­ors, but it did fea­ture gen­er­a­tions of com­bat vet­er­ans.

ldquo;What a great hon­or to be in the midst of so many her­oes,” Chris­ti­an said.

The day in­cluded Christ­mas and pat­ri­ot­ic mu­sic, the play­ing of Taps, pray­er, a Pennsylvania Na­tion­al Guard col­or guard and a video present­a­tion.

The mu­sic­al se­lec­tions in­cluded Re­mem­ber Pearl Har­bor, which was played by every ra­dio sta­tion and sung at so­cial, fam­ily and re­li­gious gath­er­ings across the coun­try in the af­ter­math of the at­tack.

The song’s lyr­ics are:

His­tory — in every cen­tury,

re­cords an act that lives forever­more.

We’ll re­call — as in to line we fall,

the thing that happened on Hawaii’s shore.

Let’s re­mem­ber Pearl Har­bor —

As we go to meet the foe —

Let’s re­mem­ber Pearl Har­bor

As we did the Alamo.

We will al­ways re­mem­ber —

how they died for liberty,

Let’s re­mem­ber Pearl Har­bor

and go on to vic­tory.

The video fea­tured com­ments from sur­viv­ors of the Pearl Har­bor at­tack.

“Planes were fly­ing low enough that we could see the pi­lots’ faces,” said Al­fred B. Rodrig­uez.

Dick Gi­rocco said, ini­tially, many sta­tioned at the base didn’t re­act to what was hap­pen­ing be­cause the planes were the same col­or as those of the Army Air Corps and the bombs re­sembled flour sacks. Soon, though, they real­ized the en­emy was strik­ing.

ldquo;We knew we were in big trouble,” Gi­rocco said.

ldquo;The sky was just black with smoke,” said Herb Weath­er­wax.

Chris­ti­an called on the me­dia to get away from cov­er­age of the Oc­cupy Wall Street pro­test­ers and turn their at­ten­tion to a big­ger move­ment.

“Their crowds are not as large as this pat­ri­ot­ic crowd here today,” he said.

Chris­ti­an said the best way to hon­or those who’ve worn a U.S. mil­it­ary uni­form, in­clud­ing those who have been killed or in­jured, is to serve today’s vet­er­ans. That means cheer­ing them when they are walk­ing through air­ports and hir­ing them for jobs with dig­nity.

In Chris­ti­an’s opin­ion, vet­er­ans can con­trib­ute a lot to the ci­vil­ian work force. After all, they’ve faced fear, pain and the ele­ments on the bat­tle­field, he said. They’ve op­er­ated high-tech sub­mar­ines, heli­copters, air­planes and tanks, and man­euvered through jungles, moun­tains and deserts.

ldquo;We don’t turn our backs on vet­er­ans,” he said, “be­cause our vet­er­ans didn’t turn their backs on Amer­ica.” ••

The Uni­on Lib­rary Com­pany of Hat­bor­ough, 243 S. York Road in Hat­boro, hosts a reg­u­lar War Stor­ies Speak­er Series.

Vet­er­ans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vi­et­nam War and the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan are wel­come to share their ex­per­i­ences. Call 215-672-1420.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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