Remembering Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary

Linda_WommackPlans are made and tickets are bought for the thousands of now retired military personnel who served and saw the horror of enemy invasion at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The 75th anniversary will take place at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 2007.

It is an anniversary, an occasion, for these courageous men, now in their 80s, to spend time with comrades, a time to reflect and remember their experiences.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is a strong group nationwide. With branches in every state, there are four branches in Colorado.  These men are full of emotion, devotion and patriotism.

Chief of Aviation Electronic Technicians, Irvin Obermeyer attended the ceremony in 2001, and remembered December 7, 1941 as if it was yesterday. Obermeyer enlisted in the United States Navy on March 13, 1940.  Clyde L. Holmes enlisted with the Navy in December of 1936. Jack L. Peterson enlisted with the Navy in July of 1939.  John J. Garcia enlisted with the Army in November 1940. All are Coloradans, placed with their military service, at Pearl Harbor, on that fateful day.

Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, started as a quiet, peaceful Hawaiian morning.  Most of the servicemen awoke early, dressed and headed to the Mess Hall for breakfast shortly after 6:30 a.m. While eating a leisurely breakfast, the men heard a continuous loud roar, which rumbled the ground yet seemed to come from above.

Running outside with the others, to see what the commotion was, Obermeyer was stunned at what he saw. It seemed like a 100 planes were flying overhead. The men knew instinctively this wasn’t an ordinary military fly over. They and their military command base were under enemy attack. The surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor lasted almost two hours. Obermeyer remembered: “It was mass chaos.

People were frantic, running everywhere.”

Meanwhile, Jack Peterson, aboard his ship, the U.S.S. MacDonough, scurried to the boiler rooms, where there had been extensive damage. He and others worked to repair the damage in an effort to get the U.S.S. MacDonough out of the port.

Navy man Irvin Obermeyer, 1940. Photo courtesy of Irv Obermeyer.

Navy man Irvin Obermeyer, 1940.
Photo courtesy of Irv Obermeyer.

Aboard the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, Clyde Holmes was ordered to man the battle station, fighting the enemy from above, and the fires from below. The U.S.S. Pennsylvania, would eventually be lost to enemy attack. Miraculously, Holmes survived.

Over at Schofield Barracks, Sargent John Garcia prepared for orders to attack, and kept busy with reinforcements at the airfield.

These men, Obermeyer, Peterson, Holmes and Garcia, are only a few of Colorado’s heroes of Pearl Harbor and World War II. All went on to serve their country, proudly. All emerged from World War II has military heroes. Years later, retired from the Navy, Obermeyer remembered that dreadful day, as all those present at Pearl Harbor remembered. Obermeyer served as chairman for the Denver branch of the nationwide Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Jack Peterson remained with the Navy serving on battleships, providing protection for aircraft carriers in the Pacific, including Midway, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines. Retiring from the Public Service Company in 1981, Peterson spent much of his time with the PHSA group.

Clyde Holmes continued to serve aboard ships, running amphibious operations in the Pacific from Aleutian to Okinawa. He retired from public service as a firefighter and deputy sheriff.

John Garcia continued his service patrolling the Asiatic Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Following the war, Garcia served as a security guard for the Pueblo Guard force before retiring after 39 years of service.

Within a few weeks, a few of these heroic men, (all well in their 80s, and some no longer living,) reunited with other members of their beloved Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, commemorating that day they all lived through, 75 years ago.

As members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, all agree with the cause, summed up in their motto: Remember Pearl Harbor, Keep America Alert 

Let us pause to give thanks for the courage these men showed. Through their efforts and duty to our country, we are a free nation today. Let us smile and wish them well as they travel for this historical reunion, for they have earned it. And finally let us learn from their example and keep America alert. Let us give thanks for the service our American military is doing Afghanistan, and let us hope all Americans will take to heart the words Irv Obermeyer once said to me:

“We did what we had to do.”

You did indeed, Sir. And this American will remember.

The question becomes, as these great heroes go to their reward, will we still remember Pearl Harbor? We must, for America’s future.

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