Savannah remembers Japanese attack

Monday, Dec. 7, 2009 7:37 AM
Last updated 7:42 AM
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SAVANNAH -- Judy Weiher will always remember the tranquil morning Japanese warplanes dropped a barrage of bombs on Pearl Harbor.

Her ceaseless, paralyzing fear of fire won't allow her to forget.

"As far as I could see was fire," said Weiher, who was 5 and living at the Schofield Barracks Army post, where her father was stationed, on Dec. 7, 1941. "It looked like the whole world was on fire."

Now 73, Weiher recalled the harrowing experience Sunday during a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler.

Military veterans and service members from each branch were also on hand to observe the surprise attack, which killed more than 2,000 people, brought the U.S. Pacific Fleet to its knees and sparked the nation's engagement in the second World War.

The ceremony was sponsored by the Savannah Navy League and the Fleet Reserve Association.

"While I wasn't alive in December of 1941, I stand here on the shoulders of whose who were," said U.S. Navy Capt. Kent V. Flowers, commanding officer of the Naval ROTC program at Savannah State University. "It was because of these ordinary men and women who performed with extraordinary courage that we all enjoy life today in a country of prosperity like no other."

Sunday's service included a 21-gun salute and patriotic songs from a Benedictine Military School choral group.

James M. Sellers, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1939, was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the strike.

"It was a terrible, terrible time," Sellers, 89, recounted. "There were people dead everywhere - Marines, Army, Navy, women, children."

Sellers, who has lived in Savannah since the 1950s, served 39 months in the South Pacific.

Ulysses Roberson, one of a dozen World War II veterans in attendance, marched forth and laid a flowery wreath at one point Sunday.

"I hope we never have to go through another war like that," said Roberson, 84, a Savannah native who retired as a chief messman in the Navy after 22 years of service. "Each war is different, but I think that was the worst one we ever had."

Judy Roddy, who read aloud the poem "Voice from the Arizona" during the memorial service, afterward spoke of her first cousin named Clement Durr. A 19-year-old gunner's mate in the Navy, Durr was burned and bloodied during the Japanese strike.

Durr died four days later.

"He was a farm boy from Nebraska - he'd never been off the farm, to be honest, and he thought he was going to see the world," Roddy said. "He was a hero in my family."

Weiher, who has spoken at the past three remembrance ceremonies, said she does so to deliver reminders of children whose parents serve in the military.

"We have children serving around the world today, not by choice but by family, by birth, by heritage," said Weiher, who did not see her father from December 1941 until the end of 1945. "I think we need to remember the children. If you know any military children, be mentors. ... Do anything you can to help these families."

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