A unique tradition ends this Dec. 7, when the last official reunion will be held for survivors of the 1941 attack on the USS Arizona battleship in Pearl Harbor.
Seven of the nine remaining survivors are expected to return to Hawaii for the last reunion ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, says Amanda Carona, regional coordinator for Military Engagement for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu.
This year marks the final reunion because traveling to Hawaii and participating in the ceremony has become too difficult for the remaining survivors, who are all in their mid-90s, Carona says.
The ceremony at the memorial, built over the submerged wreckage of the USS Arizona, will include a “final pour” of champagne for the survivors in glasses recovered from the ship, Carona says. The survivors will also pour champagne into the ocean in tribute to their shipmates who perished in the attack 73 years ago.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor. They hit, among other targets, the USS Arizona, which exploded and sank. The attack killed 1,177 of the ship’s 1,511member crew. The USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, was dedicated in 1962 to those who died in the attack, including the more than 1,000 crew members whose remains were not recovered from the ship, according to the memorial’s website. The average age of the crew members on the USS Arizona at the time of the attack was 19, Carona notes.
While the official reunions are coming to an end, some of the survivors plan to return to the USS Arizona one last time. Survivors are entitled to a full military funeral at the memorial and interment at the ship’s final resting place. Carona says 38 interments have taken place since their inception in 1980.
The private service is attended by the veteran’s family and representatives of the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service, which administers the memorial. A Navy diver takes the urn containing the survivor’s cremains and places it at gun turret No. 4, where it will rest on the silt-covered bottom of the ship, Carona says.