Dec. 7—MARIETTA — A small group gathered at the Pearl Harbor monument in Marietta National Cemetery Tuesday morning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack that plunged the U.S. into World War II.
Brad Quinlin, a volunteer historian for the cemetery, organized the gathering at the monument, which was erected 25 years ago Tuesday by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Quinlin recalls attending yearly remembrance ceremonies at the monument. At one point there were 20 Pearl Harbor survivors who would attend. Then it dwindled to maybe 15, and then just a handful. In 2015, there were two Pearl Harbor survivors in attendance, Quinlin said. It was the last time he saw them.
"They said to me, 'Brad, when we're gone, who's going to remember? Who's going to do this?' I made a promise to them," Quinlin said. "I said, 'As long as I'm alive, as long as I can do it, on December 7, I'll be here for you.'"
Attendees reflected on the sacrifice of World War II veterans and brought a flag, a wreath and roses for the monument.
Rod Hall, whose late father was a Pearl Harbor survivor, attended Tuesday morning with his daughter, Melissa. Hall once visited Pearl Harbor with his father for a remembrance.
"When we were at the (USS) Arizona, Dad was wearing that hat, and I don't think he had ever experienced as many females coming up to want to have his photo with them, as well as all the veterans ... that was really a moving moment for my two sons, because they were there," Rod Hall said.
Bill Gilmore, who also attended, is the son of a Pearl Harbor survivor. A mess cook at Schofield Barracks, Gilmore's father was apparently playing poker when a plane strafed the building he was in, ripping apart a deck of cards.
"There was a point where everybody had to stop where they were in their tracks," Gilmore said.
Melissa Hall had heard that same story about the cards from her grandfather, who himself was at Schofield Barracks during the attack, and had heard the story secondhand. She assumed it was an exaggeration. That is, until she and her father met Gilmore, who had heard the same story.
Quinlin remarked that World War II veterans such as his father and father-in-law often preferred to tell interesting stories about ruined card decks, rather than the darker memories of war.
"When my father and father-in-law opened up and started talking about it, they never told me about the battle, the tragedy, the gore," Quinlin said. "It was always a light moment that they always talked about."
For Quinlin's father-in-law, it was a story about throwing grenades into an Italian lake. Fish would supposedly float to the top after the blast, giving the soldiers a break from eating rations.
Quinlin brought with him a photo of a great uncle he had never known. The uncle, Clarence Morefield, is pictured in front of the USS Utah, the battleship he was stationed on at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred.
"He was a rambunctious young man," Quinlin said. "So the judge said, either go to jail or go into the service."
Morefield, a talented lightweight boxer, was not on the ship that fateful morning, having been in a boxing match the night before. The ship was hit by Japanese torpedoes and sank in the harbor, where it remains to this day. Morefield was killed less than three years later in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, when a Japanese plane strafed the ship he was on, the USS New Jersey. He was buried at sea.
Frankie Wilson was the only attendee Tuesday who was alive in 1941. An eight-year-old at the time, she recalled going to church and hearing about the attack later that day on the radio. Three of her five brothers went on to serve in the war.
"Being an 8-year-old, (I) didn't quite understand all that was going on," Wilson said of the attack.
During the war, Wilson and her family moved from Cherokee County to Marietta. Wilson remembers watching troop trains pass through town, as well as convoys of equipment rolling down U.S. 41 for hours on end. On one occasion, a troop train slowed to a stop, and Wilson spoke with a soldier.
"And this one guy gave me a dollar, and he said, 'You remind me of my little girl at home.' And I kept that dollar for years," Wilson said.
Gilmore's father eventually moved to Hawaii, married a woman there and was ultimately buried there. He's never been to Hawaii but would like to visit some day. For now, the memorial in Marietta will suffice.
"It's a little touching to me ... I wish there were more people here, I hope it never gets forgotten ... a monument like this, it's good to have something to be able to come to and be able to remember," Gilmore said.