Navy Leadership, Pearl Harbor Survivors Attend Wreath Laying Ceremony

Story Number: NNS101208-08Release Date: 12/8/2010 11:35:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon Burns, Defense Media Activity - Anacostia

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor attended a wreath laying ceremony at the United States Navy Memorial Naval Heritage Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, recognizing the 69th anniversary of the event.

The two-hour attack on the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet was conducted in three waves, and resulted in the loss of eight battleships, three cruisers, four destroyers, five auxiliaries and cost 2,117 Sailors and Marines their lives.

More than 50 area active duty, retired and civilians, including guest speaker retired Rear Adm. Kleber S. Masterson, Jr., son of the late Vice Adm. Kleber S. Masterson, Sr., then a Sailor aboard USS Arizona (BB-39) at the time of the attack, along with six other Pearl Harbor survivors, attended the brief ceremony.

During his remarks, Masterson talked of his father's experiences 69 years earlier, telling the ceremony attendees of how his father heard of the attack on the radio and rushed to the scene to help however he could.

"By the time my father reached the ship it had sunk and he teamed up with a senior survivor Lt. Cmdr. [Samuel Glenn] Fuqua to find other survivors," said Masterson. "At sunset that day, he and Ens. [Leon] Grabowski went over by launch to the still blazing hulk of the ship. Drooping from the flagstaff at the stern was the American flag hanging in the water. They then turned it over to the Officer of the Deck on USS Maryland asking that it be preserved as a reminder of USS Arizona."

Masterson went on to talk about the survivors of Pearl Harbor and thanked them for their sacrifices.

"Today, 69 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, we honor the sacrifices of the many brave men who were there and with all our hearts thank you for your contributions," said Masterson.

Survivors and their loved ones attending the ceremony said they felt very honored and humbled to be present at the ceremony and to be remembered in such a way.

Retired Fireman 1st Class Freeman K. Johnson was stationed aboard the USS Iowa during the attack.

"I feel so honored to be here, it's very humbling," said Johnson. "I was in the hull of the ship during the attack, and I couldn't see what was going on but I could hear bombs, alarms and a lot of yelling."

Johnson's daughter, C.J. Landry, attended the ceremony and said she felt very proud of what her father had done and felt humbled to be there with him.

"My father never really talked about that day when I was growing up," said Landry. "It wasn't until about five years ago that he started to really talk about it. I knew he had been there, but I never realized the depth of the affect it had on him until he talked about it. To be here with him today helps me to understand it a little better."

The United States Navy Memorial provides a living tribute to Navy people and a place for them to gather and celebrate their service.

Also housed in the Naval Heritage Center is the Navy Log, an online place for Navy Sailors to stay connected with each other, celebrate and preserve the memories of their service. There, Navy veterans can build a record of their service online.

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