News: Coast Guard Cutter Taney hosts Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony
BALTIMORE - Cool winds whipped across the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Taney as it sat moored along Pier 5 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 2013. As a crowd of more than 150 people began to fill the carefully placed seats and surrounding deck space on the fantail of the Taney the brisk air soon became unnoticed. The crowd came together for a ceremony memorializing the 72nd anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Veterans from all branches of the armed services, active duty service members, family and friends joined together to remember those who sacrificed their lives during and following the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks that forever changed the course of America.
“We’re here to remember that we’ve been battered and beaten on occasion,” said Alan Walden, the master of ceremonies for the memorial. “Our nation’s spirit and essence has been forged, and re-forged, in fire and blood, time and time again. And each time, from the ashes of those encounters there rose not the phoenix, but the American eagle, stronger and more resolute than ever.”
Pearl Harbor survivor Marine Corp. veteran Thomas Talbott fought back tears at times as he stood behind the podium before the large crowd recounting what he lived through on Dec. 7, 1941.
“[December 7] 1941 was the day I became a man,” said Talbott.
His emotional story took the crowd back to the December morning in Pearl Harbor where Talbott was standing guard duty when the attacks began.
Talbott had been in the Pacific for two years and was getting ready to return home. Thinking he was big shot and a veteran, Talbott recalled getting ready to be soon relieved of guard duty. He had a day planned at the beach to go swimming while on liberty. He heard a plane flying closely and he questioned who would be flying in the area. That was the moment the world around him would never be the same.
“All of a sudden the torpedo came down and my whole life changed,” said Talbott. “Everything erupted. Bodies flew. Everything was on fire. It was a total disaster.”
Talbot spoke about the horrific 72 hours that followed the initial wave of attacks and the efforts made by service members trying to save each other from the fiery wreckage and burning waters around the boats.
“To me, that was one of the greatest disasters I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Talbott.
Vice Adm. John P. Currier, the Coast Guard Vice Commandant, thanked the veterans in attendance who fought for their country to make America a better place.
“We are here today because of these men and women and what they did,” said Currier. “We as Americans owe you a debt that can never fully be repaid. We can only say ‘thank you’ and we will not forget.”
Master Chief Petty Officer Mario Padilla, Command Master Chief of the Surface Forces Logistics Center in Baltimore, organized a group of about 20 Coast Guardsmen who stood shoulder-to-shoulder manning the rails aboard the Taney during the memorial ceremony.
“It’s an honor for us to take part in the event,” said Padilla. “It’s important for all of us, from the chief’s mess down, to lead by example and show our junior enlisted members and officers the importance of honoring those who paved the way for us and allow us the opportunity to be here today.”
Coast Guard veteran James “Jim” Kitchen has been organizing reunions with those who served on the cutter Taney throughout the cutter’s 50 years of service to the fleet. Kitchen served on the Taney from 1944-1946 and traveled from his home in Fresno, California for the ceremony. He spoke to the crowd about his years serving aboard the Taney and all of those who served the country.
Veteran Chris Weber was a squad leader during the Vietnam War and witnessed the Taney’s power as he recalled watching the Taney fire rounds inland during the war. Weber has been friends with Kitchen since 1969 and traveled from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to reunite with old friends and pay respect during the Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony.
The Taney was de-commissioned in 1986 following 50 years of service to the Coast Guard. The cutter now serves the public as a floating memorial and museum. The Taney has earned a place in America’s history books as the last U.S. vessel that remains afloat that was engaged in the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Taney is maintained by the Historic Ships in Baltimore.
“It’s such an honor to have the Taney here with such a rich history and the significance of being the last survivor of Pearl Harbor,” said Chris Rowsom, the executive director of the Historic Ships in Baltimore.