Jo Davis, the widow of one of the last Maine survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, made good on her promise to her husband to be on hand Saturday at a ceremony in remembrance of the surprise strike that pushed the United States into World War II.
Davis placed a wreath at the memorial honoring veterans at the Charles J. Loring Jr. Memorial Park on the Eastern Promenade as about 75 others looked on. The ceremony marked the 72nd anniversary of the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
Davis was married to Bert Davis, a member of the AMVETS Charles J. Loring Jr. Post 25 of Portland, who died earlier this year at age 94. He was serving as an engineer aboard a destroyer in Pearl Harbor when the attack planes arrived.
The Portland ceremony, hosted by Post 25 for the 46th year, included representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation and several veterans groups. Flags, hanging at half-staff, crackled in the brisk north wind while the AMVETS Lunn-Hunnewell Post 6 color guard of New Gloucester fired a 21-gun salute.
Retired Army Col. Dan Haley told the gathering that the men and women who fought in World War II have been an inspiration to all Americans.
Haley noted that about 112,000 Mainers served in World War II, and about 2,500 of them were killed. He said both Portland and Loring memorial park were appropriate locations for the ceremony. Portland was home port to the North Atlantic Fleet during World War II and Loring, a Munjoy Hill native, was a World War II flying ace who went on to fight in Korea. This year also marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
“Today we look to the World War II generation,” Haley said.
The event was a chance for some to remember their own years of service.
Bill Gardner of Portland, who fought in the Navy during World War II, said he was 17 and in high school when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor came over the radio.
“They opened the recruiting stations the next day,” he said.
He said the attack was shocking.
“But it created the greatest patriotism America has ever had, ” Gardner said.
Gardner enlisted in the Navy as soon as he graduated from high school and served on a destroyer in the South Pacific. Gardner said today it seems Pearl Harbor and what it stood for among his generation are mostly forgotten.
“I miss the patriotism,” he said.
Meanwhile, about 2,500 people gathered at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Saturday to remember those killed in the 1941 attack.
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. local time, the minute the bombing began 72 years ago.
A vintage World War II-era airplane – a 1944 North American SNJ-5B – flew overhead to break the silence.
About 50 survivors returned to Pearl Harbor for the ceremony.
“I come back to be with my comrades – meet the ones who are still alive, and we’re going fast,” said Delton Walling, who was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania at the time of the attack.
The Navy and National Park Service co-hosted the ceremony, which was open to the public. Their theme for the event, “Sound the Alarm,” explored how Americans answered a call to duty in the wake of the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Beth Quimby can be reached at 791-6363 or at: