News: 15th Wing honors December 7, 1941 survivors at Hickam Field
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - The 15th Wing reflected on the 72nd anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Hickam Field, Saturday, Dec. 7, with a ceremony at Atterbury Circle, Hickam Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
In attendance at the ceremony were a group of men who survived the attacks on Hickam Field that infamous day. Colonel Johnny Roscoe, Commander, 15th Wing, reminded all who came to reflect on history and honor those veterans and survivors, of a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt made in response to the attacks in 1941. “Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
“I am in total awe to be in your presence this morning,” Col. Roscoe said to the guests of honor. “This is just an incredible moment. Today marks the anniversary of a date that really changed the course of world history. 72 years ago … two waves of attacks not only hit here, at Hickam Field, but Pearl Harbor, Ewa Beach, Ford Island, Wheeler, Bellows, Kaneohe – it literally was an attack on the island of Oahu.”
While the honored guests were each presented with flags, the emcee shared their personal story of that day 72 years ago. Roscoe reminded all in attendance how they survived “hell in paradise” it’s more than just a story. They “keep those who sacrificed alive, they keep us connected and allow us to really remember that fateful day.”
One story was of retired Master Sgt. Millard Rice, a 95-year-old veteran, who made it back to Hickam Field today, for the first time since 1941. When Rice, a Private in 1941, failed a footlocker inspection on Dec. 6, he had no idea that mistake could have possibly saved his life.
As his punishment for failing the inspection, he was ordered to clean latrines. While cleaning a latrine doesn’t really sound like an important, life-saving task, it was for Private Rice, as he normally would have been in the mess hall at 0800 on a Sunday morning having his breakfast. That very mess hall was bombed that fateful morning and ended up in shambles, with not many survivors.
Col. Roscoe reminded guests that remembering the past is important not just for service members, but also for citizens of the United States of America. While every survivor of that day has a story, according to Roscoe, it is important that we never forget, as “it is remembering and understanding their character, that we define our own.”
Another story from survivor, retired Master Sgt. Ken Ford reminded everyone that it doesn’t matter where you are when rounds are in-bound, it’s how you rise to the occasion and fight back.
Master Sgt. Ford, on a layover en route to Alaska, was in the shower when he heard the first shots fired. His only means of cover was a desk, where he stayed until he could leave somewhat safely. Later on that day, Ford was finally able to be assigned a weapon, which he took to the beach at Fort Kamehameha and guarded Hickam Field in the event the Japanese decided to invade with ground forces.
While the main focus of Dec. 7, 1941 is the attack on Pearl Harbor the men who were honored today at Atterbury Circle serve as a reminder that bravery and duty to country could be found all over the island of Oahu.