Remember Pearl Harbor, keep America alert

(Photo by Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)
Paul Loefler in presenting his “Faces of Pearl Harbor”.

December 7, 2023 – On the 82nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Clovis Veterans Memorial District (CVMD) held their Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Lorenzo Rios, CEO of CVMD, welcomed all the guests in attendance with an opening speech before the invocation was led by Retired Navy Chaplain Leslie Sias of the VA.

American Legion Post 147 carried out the presentation and posting of the colors, and then the National anthem was sung by Melinda Salcido.

A sixth grade class from Clovis Elementary was present, and the principal Donelle Kellom led the pledge of allegiance. 

Rios returned to the stage to narrate the events of the Pearl Harbor attack on the morning of December 7th, 1941. The narration was accompanied by a photo montage of images captured on that day—as well as the video of the speech that was given by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).

The “Day of Infamy” speech was given by FDR the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the speech, Congress voted to declare war on Imperial Japan. 

At 7:48 am Pacific Standard Time on December 7th, 1941, Imperial Japan attacked the United States in a surprise strike. The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service used over 300 aircraft including fighters, bombers, and torpedoes to attack the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Before this attack, the U.S. had spent months negotiating with the government of Imperial Japan. The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the United States officially entering into World War II.

“Following these Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. Three days later, after Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, the United States became fully engaged in the Second World War,” said CVMD CEO, Lorenzo Rios.

Stories of Pearl Harbor survivors were shared by Paul Loefler on behalf of the survivors. “It’s a little surreal to be here today and to not have any Pearl Harbor survivors with us. That was an eventuality that we knew was coming, but still kind of hits hard when it happens,” said Loefler.

Loefler spoke of many Pearl Harbor survivors, including Wally Walling who had half of a crooked finger surgically removed just so he could join the Navy. At the time of the attack, his ship was in dry dock, so he was up in the observation tower which still stands today. He had a 360-degree view of the attack. Walling actually saw the explosion of the USS Arizona—which very few people witnessed. 

Loefler also spoke of Chuck Keen who was a 19 year-old stationed on the USS Honolulu that morning. “‘Our fleet was destroyed and so was my innocence,’” Loefler recalled Keen telling him. “‘The first day of the war was the worst day of my life.’”

The story of Stu Hedley was also shared. Hedley was on the USS West Virginia that was heavily damaged during the attacks. He had to swim a long distance under water to try to avoid being burned by the oil fire covering the water’s surface. They were taught to splash around when they came up for breath, in order to break up some of the fire. 

Loefler said that one of Stu Hedley’s favorite stories to tell was about Doris “Dorie” Miller. Miller was a sailor who worked as a cook. At the time, all black sailors were only given jobs below deck, usually working as cooks or stewards.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, Miller went above deck and carried wounded sailors to safety before manning an anti-aircraft gun to shoot down Imperial Japanese planes—with no prior training in gunnery.

Dorie was the first Black recipient of the Navy Cross. If the Navy wasn’t still segregated at that time, he would’ve most likely been awarded the Medal of Honor. Dorie Miller was killed in WWII two years later. 

Many other incredible stories were shared about other Pearl Harbor survivors, including a story told by John Cline. The story was one that his wife had written down, about her father who was there on the day 82 years ago.

Each story was powerful and emotional—stories that need to be told, so that the future generations never forget. 

Following the stories, Clovis Army recruiting, Navy recruiting, Marine Corps recruiting, and the Country Lions Club participated in the traditional Bell Ceremony. Taps was then performed by Ed Hawk from the Clovis Community Band.

2,403 SOULS LOST BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. “Remember Pearl Harbor—Keep America alert.”

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.