Flags flew at half staff in Veterans Memorial Park in Colusa on Monday as members of the Colusa Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Maxwell American Legion, and a few members of the public gathered to honor the more than 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force on the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet in Hawaii occurred 79 years ago, and, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt predicted, was a day that would live on in infamy.
“To say the attack on Pearl Harbor was an unfortunate Day in U.S. History is an understatement,” said VFW Post No. 2441 Commander, Mike Jones.
The air attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor sank four battleships, including the USS Arizona, which today serves as a tomb and memorial for more than 1,000 crew members.
“A fact I discovered while reading up on this was that 23 sets of brothers died aboard the USS Arizona,” said Jones, who stood before the concrete and brick memorials in Colusa that honors more than 900 local military veterans.
Colusa VFW chaplain George Sandridge met two Pearl Harbor survivors when he attended the ceremony in Hawaii last year.
This year, none of the few remaining survivors attended the remembrance due to COVID-19, which has been particularly deadly to older people.
The Pearl Harbor attack launched the U.S. entry into World War II, which ended when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
Monday’s gathering not only paid tribute to those who fought or died at Pearl Harbor, but it pays tribute to the local veterans as well.
To date, the names of more than 900 veterans are inscribed on Colusa’s memorial, including Williams F. James, U.S. Navy, who was at Pearl Harbor that fateful day.
Others were already in the military, including Robert Miller, who joined the Navy in 1940, and John “Jack” Geisier Stowell, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1938 after graduating from Colusa High School.
Stowell was a bugler with the Admiral’s staff aboard the USS Pillsbury, which was 6,000 miles away in Borneo when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. But the Japanese in World War II were tenacious. Stowell died three months after the Pearl Harbor attack when a Japanese destroyer sank the Pillsbury in the Java Sea on March 1, 1942, killing all aboard the vessel except for five men, who were later executed.
Following Pearl Harbor, many from Colusa County entered the military to fight for the United States, including Paul Niehues, H.F. Wrysinski, Kenneth Skidmore, Robert Miller, and Gar Rourke, who served in the U.S. Navy; James L. Hickel, who served in the Army Air Corps; Doil Gott, who served in the Air Force; and Hollis Powers, Verne Sanders, and Charles Alucets, who served in the Army.
The Pearl Harbor Day ceremony in Colusa on Monday was brief, and included a three-volley rifle salute by members of the VFW and American Legion and the playing of Taps.
Bailey and Rosalyn Wilson, of Maxwell, performed the National Anthem.