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News :: Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive Commemorates 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
 

December 8, 2011

According to a front page article in the December 7, 2011 edition of the New York Times, the Pearl Harbors Survivors Association will officially disband on December 31, making this year’s 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack the last one commemorated by the survivors’ association.

“We had no choice,” Association officers were quoted as saying.  ”Wives and family members have been trying to keep [the Association] operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places… We just ran out of gas…”

Dr. Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial said that Pearl Harbor Day was supposed to be observed everywhere and every year, not just in Hawaii.  ”It was supposed to be a national day of remembrance, with ceremonies across the country…this is not happening.”  (For the full text of the NYTimes article, visit Fewer Veterans to Remember Pearl Harbor Day – NYTimes.com

Spirit of '45 Youth Leader Darlene Montessano with National Spokesman and Iwo Jima Survivor "Skip" Adams.

This announcement of the demise of one of the most iconic of World War II heritage organizations brings into stark relief the reason why the Spirit of ’45 initiative is so important to preserving the history of service of the men and women who were the “ordinary heroes” of what is commonly referred to as America’s ‘greatest generation.’

One by one, the members of the WWII generation are themselves passing into history, and the organizations that they created to preserve their legacy - the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, Go For Broke,  Iwo Jima Survivors, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, not to mention the hundreds of associations of WWII military service units - are all threatened by the same fate as the Survivors.   They, too, risk having to close their doors as their membership dwindles over time, their legacy lost to future generations…

The Spirit of ’45 initiative is designed to assure that this DOES NOT HAPPEN.  By providing a common denominator that honors the memory of ALL WWII related groups, National Spirit of ’45 Day is providing a way to rally them together in common cause and to assure that future generations will forever remember their achievements and the qualities of character of the men and women of who endured the trials of the Great Depression, answered the call to duty on December 7, 1941, and on August 14, 1945 assumed the responsibility for rebuilding the world for themselves and for their friends and former foes alike.

This year, Spirit of ’45 Day Founding Member organizations from coast to coast stepped up to begin the process of assuring that the torch is passed from the WWII veterans to the youth of America.

The Greatest Generations Foundation took 24 Pearl Harbor Survivors, accompanied by 24 Navy ROTC Midshipmen, to Hawaii to take part in the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremonies.   American Airlines provided free air transportation to the group, who came from several states on the Mainland.  Spirit of ’45 Hawaii Representative Vanita Rae Smith brought 24 Jr. ROTC students from 8 local high schools, including President Obama’s alma mater Punahou High School, to welcome the TBBF group on Monday, December 5, during their visit to the USS Missouri.

Vanita Rae Smith and Paul Belcher, Marketing Director of the USS Missouri, with "Time Square Kiss"

The Greatest Generations Foundation took 24 Pearl Harbor Survivors, accompanied by 24 Navy ROTC Midshipmen, to Hawaii to take part in the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremonies. American Airlines provided free air transportation to the group, who came from several states on the Mainland. Spirit of ’45 Hawaii Representative Vanita Rae Smith brought 24 Jr. ROTC students from 8 local high schools, including President Obama’s alma mater Punahou High School, to welcome the TBBF group on Monday, December 5, during their visit to the USS Missouri.

Pearl Harbor Survivors salutes Hawaii Jr.ROTC students

Vanita, whose father was killed during the invasion of Normandy, organized one of the largest National Spirit of ’45 Day events last year at the 8,000-seat Waikiki Shell, featuring Country Western singer Lee Greenwood.

She also was responsible for helping install one of the 6ft replicas of Seward Johnson’s famous sculpture depicting the “Times Square Kiss” in front of the USS Missouri, the ship on which Japan signed the official terms of surrender on September 2, 1941.  The ship and the statue representing the end of WWII, stand together  in Pearl Harbor where the war began.

The Spirit of ’45 youth contingent honored the visiting Survivors with a Saber Salute, and joined them for a lunch to hear firsthand descriptions of what took place on the day Japan attacked, bringing the United States into WWII.

“It really put a human face on history,” said one student after listing to the vets’ stories.  ”It is hard to imagine now what that day must have been like - the Harbor is so peaceful now.  But these men remember every detail even after 70 years!”

The Hawaii students brought with them a large banner with the faces of more than 100 of the 2,402 servicemen who were killed during the December 7, 1941 attack, several of whom were recognized by some of the Survivors.


Hawaii Jr ROTC students hold Spirit of '45 banner honoring the 2,402 sailors and marines who were killed during the December 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Survivor identifies a long lost comrade from among the faces in the Gold Star Wall of Honor during the welcome ceremony held in front of the USS Missouri on Monday, December 5, 2011.

Enlarged versions of the individual portrait photos are carried each year by Spirit of ’45 youth in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. to honor the memory of the more than 400,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country during WWII.  

Watch the Spirit of ’45 Memorial Day Service Slide Show!

The Pearl Harbor Gold Stars banner was donated by Pearl Harbor Survivor Layton Warn, who was a young Army corpsman at Wheeler Field which was hit during the first wave of bombing raids that morning.  During the attack, Layton discovered he had run out of his barracks without any shirt on, and grabbed a sweatshirt from the PX which he kept for many years as a reminder of that fateful Sunday.  This year, members of the ‘greatest generation’ at Spirit of ’45 Participating Member Vintage Senior Living displayed Layton’s wartime photo and the famous Wheeler Field sweatshirt during a Pearl Harbor Day observance in San Jose, CA.


Spirit of '45 group at San Jose's Vintage Senior Living community with Layton's photo and the sweatshirt he wore during the attacks on Wheeler Field on December 7, 1941.

Robert Corpus and Layton Warn with wreath at USS Arizona Memorial on December 7, 2007.
Layton being interviewed by the History Channel.

Layton was one of the “founding fathers” of the award winning Stories of Service program, producing a video with the help of high school students from his community that is part of the research collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.  (Click here to see Layton’s video  http://www.digiclub.org/sofs/index.php?page_id=17&video_id=252

Layton returned to Hawaii to take part in the 2007 Pearl Harbor Day commemoration ceremonies, accompanied by Robert Corpus, Spirit of ’45 national youth coordinator, who escorted Layton and his wife Marcie on a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, Wheeler Field and other historic sites.

Layton was also “present at the creation” of National Spirit of ’45 Day, when he met Edith Shain at the San Jose History Park in August 2007.  http://www.digiclub.org/sofs/index.php?page_id=9&article_id=81

Now 90, Layton is living in Hutchinson, KS, and is called on every December 7 to comment on his memories of December 7.
http://hutchnews.com/Todaystop/Pearl-Harbor-vet-Layton-Warn#

As we close out the year and prepare for the 2012 National Spirit of ’45 Day public awareness campaign, we call on all Participating Members to renew their commitment to assuring that Layton and the rest of his generation can rest assured that their legacy will never die.


Robert Corpus holds photo of Pearl Harbor Survivor Stu Hedly of San Diego, which is carried each year in New York City's Veterans Day Parade which features a 6 ft replica of Seward Johnson's famous sculpture depicting the "Times Square Kiss."

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