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Will we remember?

By ErinPradia
Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.
Updated Dec. 7, 2011 at 6:07 a.m.

The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea on Dec. 7, 1941, during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Wednesday is the 70th anniversary of the attack that brought the United States into World War II.

Pear Harbor survivor D.D. Hill remembers the unity our country exuded in the face of the attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.

"Pearl Harbor is the thing that energized America to unify itself to fight an enemy and become victorious," Hill said at a Pearl Harbor Memorial service last year. "I regret that in so many wars that have happened since, we get into them and then we don't support the troops once we are already into it - the country becomes divided."

The question remains, will we support our heroes and honor their memory once they have passed on.

Nine survivors of the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, rest in Victoria cemeteries.

On Wednesday morning, Pearl Harbor survivor widow Sue Lindsey, of Victoria, and Rockport resident Larry Chilcoat, the son of a survivor and his wife, Donna, will place wreaths on each of their graves.

They remember not only their loved ones who survived the attacks, but the American citizens who gave their lives for freedom, now 70 years ago.

"Our family knows a little bit about the price of freedom, and it's not free," Larry Chilcoat said.

Donna Chilcoat's father was career military, and Larry Chilcoat was a Vietnam veteran, following in the footsteps of his father, Joe Chilcoat, an Army Air Corps aircraft dispatcher who helped man the Pearl Harbor control tower that day 70 years ago.

"My dad was Army Air Corps aircraft dispatcher in the control tower the morning of Dec. 7th and had a bird's eye view of the attack," Chilcoat said. "His job was to notify base command of the attacks and get as many aircraft in the air in a defensive posture as possible."

Joe Chilcoat fulfilled his duties that day and survived the attacks in the control tower, which the Japanese used as a visual reference point.

"I've been to Pearl Harbor. Looking at it, it is awesomely beautiful," Larry Chilcoat said. "It is hard to visualize how it turned into a hell on earth that day."

Joe Chilcoat never spoke openly about the attack, his son recalled, but if he was asked directly, he was more than willing to share.

A charter member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Joe Chilcoat died at 3:53 a.m. Dec. 8, 1988.

"It was still Dec. 7th Hawaii time, since they are 4 hours ahead of us," Larry Chilcoat said. "If he could have planned the day of his death, he wouldn't have had it any other way. Pearl Harbor Day has always been a special day for our family."

But will Dec. 7 continue to hold such significance for future generations who have not lived alongside the veterans of that infamous day?

Professor of History at Victoria College Michael Hummel said Pearl Harbor Day is an event of such great magnitude, our nation will not collectively forget.

"I really cannot predict the future. I think we will for ages remember it, but perhaps not as much as when we have some survivors with us," Hummel said.

Pearl Harbor day should be remembered as an event that brought our country together, Hummel said.

"We rose to the occasion. It should be remembered because of those who lost their lives and were injured during the attacks," Hummel said. "It should be remembered for us to remain vigilant - not afraid, but vigilant."

Chilcoat agreed, remembering the events of Dec. 7 and remaining alert are the key to protecting our country in the future.

The first terrorist attack on American soil caught the nation by surprise, Chilcoat said.

"Terrorist attack was not even in our vocabulary at that time," Chilcoat said. "And now those words are deeply ingrained in every American citizen."

"We need to remember it's by blood our freedom was attained, and it will be by blood that our freedom was maintained," Larry Chilcoat said. "That's the cold facts of the world that we live in."

Pearl Harbor survivors

Dec. 6, 2009 interview

Dec. 8, 2010 interview



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