The 75th anniversary of the infamous Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed more than 2,300 American servicemen and pushed the United States into World War II, will be commemorated in ceremonies in Portland and Bangor on Wednesday.
Three World War II veterans will be honored at the Bangor ceremony, including Robert Coles of Machias, who survived the attack. The 92-year-old Coles won’t be able to attend because he is spending the week at Pearl Harbor, his first visit since the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Bangor’s remembrance will feature a parade and an appearance by Gov. Paul LePage, according to Samuel Cannon, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who spent six months organizing the event.
“We are losing a lot of our vets from World War II. I wanted to do this now because they are not going to be around for the 100th anniversary,” said Cannon, who lives in Orono.
Portland’s ceremony, which starts at 11 a.m., will be attended by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Council members. It will take place at Fort Allen Park on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. There will be brief speeches and a wreath-laying.
Jerry Dewitt, commander of the state AMVETs, said more people are likely to attend this year’s ceremony in Portland because of its historical significance.
“(But) it’s important every year,” Dewitt said. “It is a day to honor those people we lost.”
The governor proclaimed Wednesday as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in Maine and ordered all flags to be lowered to half staff. The ceremonies pay tribute to the servicemen who sacrificed their lives during the devastating sneak attack, he said.
A total of 2,403 Americans died in the early morning attack and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or damaged, including all eight battleships at the Navy base, and about 300 aircraft. The Japanese deployed 353 fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers.
“Pearl Harbor Day is one of the significant anniversaries of World War II, which reminds us of the great sacrifices our military men and women bear to defend and protect our freedoms,” LePage said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We are a brave and resilient nation because of these heroes, and I thank and honor the men and women, past and present, who have given so much for our way of life.”
LePage will be the guest speaker at Bangor’s service, Cannon said. It will begin on the city’s waterfront near 78 Exchange St. with a parade at 11:30 a.m. The parade, which will feature veterans from across Maine and the Bangor High School marching band, will end around noon at the Kenduskeag Stream bridge.
At the bridge, Coles and two other World War II veterans – Paul Colburn of Bangor and Paul Wilbur of Hermon – will be honored.
Old Orchard Beach is also planning a brief ceremony. Assistant Town Manager Louise Reid said the Veteran’s Memorial Park Committee will raise the American flag on Wednesday at 7:48 a.m. – the time when the attack began. The flag raising will take place at Veteran’s Memorial Park, 5 First St.
Later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join President Obama in Pearl Harbor, becoming the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the attack in 75 years. Obama and Abe visited Hiroshima in May, making Obama the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city where the United States dropped the first of two atomic bombs. The Hiroshima bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and the other on Nagasaki three days later forced Japan to surrender.
Abe will visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27 to “pay tribute” to military personnel from both sides who died during World War II, The Washington Post reported.
“This visit is to comfort the souls of the victims. We’d like to send messages about the importance of reconciliation between the two countries,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo.