In a radio address to the nation more than seven decades ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described Dec. 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.”
It was also a date during which great acts of personal courage and conviction were displayed, said James Bloom, speaker at a tribute Sunday in remembrance of Pearl Harbor at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
“Pearl Harbor, this morning, 73 years ago was the site of unspeakable tragedy and profound alarm, but it was also the site of unequaled devotion and unparalleled bravery,” he said.
Dozens of people showed up for the tribute, held beside the 14-inch naval guns in front of the museum. Those weapons are silent witnesses to Japanese attack that launched the United States into World War II so many years ago. They were taken from the USS Pennsylvania, a battleship that was damaged at Pearl Harbor.
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Bloom, who spent a career in the Navy medical corps, recounted the story of Navy Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich. Tomich was on the USS Utah on the morning of Dec. 7. Once a mighty battleship, the Utah was obsolete by the time of the attack and was used for target practice. The Japanese, unaware of this fact, bombed her furiously.
Tomich was in charge of the electricity on the ship and he had to have known that if he left his post, the lights would go out on the vessel and doom many of his shipmates in the bowels of the ship, Bloom said. Tomich stayed at his post, even as the ship began to take water. Although the details of his death are uncertain, Bloom said his selflessness and devotion to duty was evident.
“We know that he died at his station, giving his life so others may live,” he said.
Tomich and 14 others were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions at Pearl Harbor. Just as Roosevelt said the day will live in infamy, Bloom said the memories of sacrifice must also live on.
“It is right that we remember those men and this day, for today and for all the Decembers to come,” Bloom said.
Cadets from the ROTC, NROTC and Air Force ROTC at Penn State and members of local service organizations also participated. The tribute closed with a 21-gun salute and taps. A ceremony has been held on the grounds of the museum every year since 2009, when the guns from the battleship were first placed on site, museum curator Joseph Horvath said.
Richard and Frances Shreve, of Bellefonte, were among those gathered Sunday to remember Pearl Harbor. The event was noteworthy because Dec. 7, 1941 was also a Sunday, Richard said.
Ron Lenox, of State College, wore a hat with the USS Pennsylvania emblazoned on it. Lenox, who volunteers at the museum, wore it to honor the ship and its presence at Pearl Harbor. Another reason for attending was personal. His father heard used to tell Lenox about listening to reports of the attack on the radio and, like 16 million other Americans, spent time in uniform. He would ultimately serve as an Army medic in the European theater.
“I really came out today to honor my dad’s memory and his service,” Lenox said.
Clara Strausser, of Boalsburg, was there with her great-niece, Khadijah Kitchens, 6. Strausser brought her along because she wants her to understand and appreciate the nation’s history, the freedoms Americans enjoy and the fact that people gave their lives for those freedoms.
“But I already appreciate our country,” Khadijah said.