MIDDLEPORT — On the shores of the Ohio River, veterans and community members paused early Wednesday morning to remember those killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years before.
Just before 8 a.m. in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, the first of the Japanese bombers began to attack the United States Navy base in Pearl Harbor. The two-hour aerial raid destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, killing 2,390 people and wounding 1,178 others.
Feeney Bennett American Legion Post 128 member James Bradbury lead a prayer before placing a wreath in the Ohio River from the Middleport Levee. A 21-gun salute and the playing of taps concluded the ceremony.
Middleport has a unique connection to the Pearl Harbor attack, as was reported in The Daily Sentinel in 2008.
According to the May 26, 2008 article which discussed a memorial plaque to be placed in the village, the first American military action against Japan in World War II was initiated by Middleport native William Outerbridge at 6:37 a.m. prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Outerbridge was commander of the destroyer U.S.S. Ward, which engaged and attacked a Japanese midget submarine as it attempted to slip into the harbor.
Outerbridge reported the action and the sinking of the submarine before the attack by Japan. In 2005, the submarine was found and the shell holes in the coning tower confirmed as reported.
During World War II, he went on to command U.S.S. O’Brien, which served in support of the Normandy DDay landings on the beaches and at the port of Cherbourg and served in the Pacific Theater during island invasions leading up to the Japanese islands and the end of the war. He later commanded the cruiser, U.S.S. Los Angeles. Rear Admiral Outerbridge’s family home was at 499 Fisher Street, Middleport.
Thousands of miles from Middleport at the site of the attack, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, thousands gathered for a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary.
The crowd bowed their heads at the precise moment decades ago when Japanese planes began their assault on the U.S. naval base at the harbor. And they stood and clapped when survivors joined active-duty servicemen and women and National Park Service rangers in dedicating wreaths to those killed.
Attendees also gave a lengthy ovation to Adm. Harry Harris of the U.S. Pacific Command when he spoke in favor of standing for the national anthem.
The anniversary is a tribute to “what freedom does when it is faced with fascism,” said Paul Hilliard of the National World War II Museum.
“America went abroad to gain freedom for millions of other people,” said Hilliard, a Marine veteran and one of several dignitaries and officials who presented wreaths for the fallen at a memorial over the sunken hull of USS Arizona. “We are kind of unique. We are an exceptional nation.”
Wednesday’s ceremony started with the USS Halsey sounding its whistle to mark the start of the moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. It ended with F-22 fighter jets flying in formation overhead.
Harris told the crowd the servicemen attacked at Pearl Harbor “engaged the enemy as best they could,” and there is sorrow for those who died. “Yet we are also inspired by their great gift to the world — the gift of freedom itself,” he said.
Harris also said: “You can bet that the men and women we honor today” never failed to stand for the national anthem. The crowd applauded for nearly a minute.
Pearl Harbor events took place across the country Wednesday. In Texas, hundreds of well-wishers applauded World War II veterans George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole during a patriotic ceremony. A tattered U.S. flag that flew at Pearl Harbor was on display at an Ohio museum, and dozens of WWII veterans in the Cincinnati region recounted their experiences for high school students gathered at the Sharonville Convention Center.
President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he and first lady Michelle Obama join Americans in remembering those who gave their lives on Dec. 7, 1941.
“We can never repay the profound debt of gratitude we owe to those who served on our behalf,” he said.
The president said he will visit the USS Arizona Memorial later this month with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
Information on the Pearl Harbor ceremony at Pearl Harbor and other locations taken from Associated Press reports.