BOSTON (CBS) – A day that has lived in infamy was commemorated Thursday in Charlestown, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago. They gathered on a Navy destroyer at the Navy yard to remember. And among them, a Waltham man who survived the attack, and served in the Pacific for the rest of the war.
Freeman Johnson was 21 years old in 1941. It was December 7th when hundreds of Japanese war planes attacked Pearl Harbor.
The surprise assault killed more than 2,400 Americans, destroyed almost 20 ships and launched America into World War II. Mr. Johnson was a fireman working in the boiler room aboard the USS St. Louis, nicknamed “Lucky Lou” because it escaped the destruction.
On Thursday, he dropped a wreath into the harbor for all those who didn’t. “It’s a day of remembrance,” he says.
And he does remember. “The first wave went for the aircraft. And then the second wave went for the battleships,” he says. Afterward the scene was horrifying. “Just a mess. The ships were just wrecked,” Johnson says.
Seventy-six years later, military personnel and civilians gathered in Charlestown to honor sacrifice and duty. “Our nation came together in the name of freedom,” says Commander Nathaniel Shick, the captain of the USS Constitution.
“Today is a day of respectful remembrance,” Giselle Sterling, the Boston Veterans’ Services Commissioner told the crowd. “This is the 9-11 of the World War II generation. nd as we honor 9-11 for our generation and those that witnessed it, to think that they witnessed the same aspect. They were there,” says Francisco Urena, the Mass. Secretary of Veteran’s Services.
The ceremony took place on the USS Cassin Young, a ship named after a hero of Pearl Harbor. Capt. Cassin Young commanded a ship that was badly damaged by Japanese bombs. He rallied his crew and was able to save the ship. He was killed a year later during the Battle of Guadalcanal.