Columbia County residents from the Brandon Wilde community gathered Dec. 7 to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day, guest speakers including retired Maj. Gen. Perry Smith.
Smith was at Pearl Harbor 65 years ago when it was attacked by the Japanese, propelling America into the Second World War. Smith recalled how it felt, as a child on his way to Sunday school, when the Army truck carrying the children was turned back by an armed captain during the first moments of the bombing. Smith and the other children endured a wild and speedy ride back to their homes and into the arms of their family members.
"It was not a pleasant time. I was 6, and I was scared," he said.
Pearl Harbor families soon were evacuated to the mainland, and at age 7, Smith made his first public speech on what it was like to be at Pearl Harbor.
He recalled the heroism of Americans during that time, and told the stories of Medal of Honor recipients John Finn, who manned a machine gun and fired on the enemy during the attack, and Jack Lucas, who was only 17 when President Truman presented him with the medal.
Thanking the audience for being members of "The Greatest Generation," guest speaker Brig. Gen. Randolph Strong, the commander of Fort Gordon, said, "Your generation selflessly answered America's call. It's important citizens like you still strive to keep those memories alive."
Strong, a survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, discussed changes in the world since Pearl Harbor, but said, "What has not changed is the dedication, spirit and values of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines."
Dr. Ed Cashin, a local historian, discussed how Augusta was involved with the American retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack.
Cashin, the author of From Balloons to Blue Angels and other books, discussed how Daniel Field was used to train pilots and the role of Augusta in the history of aviation.
The shakedown missions at Daniel Field helped pilots discover glitches before real battle and helped prepare them for action in the Pacific.
Retired Lt. Col. David Titus, who served as master of ceremonies for the Pearl Harbor remembrance, said, "The most important aspect of a commemoration like this is to remember to never let our guard down - never let our forces dwindle."
Titus is the commander in chief of The Military Order of the World Wars.
"We need to stay strong and united, and keep doing what's right," he said.
Guest speakers at the commemoration struck a chord with the audience members, most of whom remember the Pearl Harbor attack.
"We want to make the community aware that these heroes are still here to share their experiences," said Beverly Dorn, of the Brandon Wilde retirement community, who helped arrange the commemoration.
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