PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - About 50 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor paused Saturday at the site to honor those killed and remember the moment that plunged the U.S. into World War II.
Alvis Taylor, 90, was serving as an Army medic when the attack began. His superiors, who were doctors, rushed to hospitals to care for the wounded and left him in charge. He went to Pearl Harbor, about 18 miles south of his Army post at Schofield Barracks, with dozens of ambulances.
"I remember everything that happened that day," Taylor said grimly.
A crowd of about 2,500 joined the survivors at Pearl Harbor to honor those killed and those who fired back, rescued the burned, and went on to serve during the war. About 2,400 sailors, Marines, and soldiers were killed at Pearl Harbor and other military installations on the island of Oahu in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
Taylor, who lives in Davenport, Iowa, decided to return to Pearl Harbor for the first time since the war this week because the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America paid for him and his wife to make the trip.
Of the tens of thousands of servicemen who survived, about 2,000 to 2,500 are still living.
Delton Walling, who was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania at the time of the attack, said they're "in the twilight years."
"I come back to be with my comrades - meet the ones who are still alive, and we're going fast," said Walling, 92.
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the bombing began 72 years ago. Attendees sat in a grassy spot overlooking the memorial to the battleship USS Arizona, sunk in the attack.
A World War II-era airplane - a 1944 North American SNJ-5B - flew overhead to break the silence.
The Navy and National Park Service cohosted the ceremony, which was open to the public.
The current U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., said the U.S. remembers Pearl Harbor and is vigilant. "The United States is and will remain a Pacific power. But we also remember the warning from those who survived Pearl Harbor, and we are increasing our vigilance accordingly," Harris said.
Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, choking back tears at times, spoke of his father, who served in the Navy during the war. "He was my hero," Cleland said in his keynote address.