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7 Utah Pearl Harbor survivors mark 70th anniversary

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 2:45 p.m. MST

In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Arizona is pictured in flames after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack sank four U.S. battleships and destroyed 188 U.S. planes. Another four battleships were damaged, along with three cruisers and three destroyers. More than 2,200 sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed.

SALT LAKE CITY — A 21-gun cannon salute at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday signaled a remembrance of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

Seven rounds each from three World War II-vintage "Pack 75" howitzers thundered from the front of the Capitol as a crowd attending the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the attack stood silently inside.

But Utah survivors of the attack were the highlight of the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony.

The state expected four — and got seven. "We'll keep taking them for as long as we keep finding them," said Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs.

There is no official count of survivors of the Japanese attack that brought the United States into World War II. Many have joined the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, but not all. The number of association members still living is shrinking to the point the group is shutting down Dec. 31.

Victor Bradley, a Utah native who has until recently lived in Oregon and California, was serving on the USS Mugford at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and just recently moved back to Utah.

Bradley joined Glen Allgood and Forrest Kessinger on the honor stand, along with survivors that event organizers knew would be coming: Max Burggraaf, an electricians mate aboard the USS Nevada; Marion Kesler, a mess cook aboard the USS Hulbert; Kenneth Potts, a coxswain aboard the USS Arizona; and Ernal Underwood, a petty officer aboard the USS Helena.

"It's an honor just to be here," Bradley said as a steady stream of people came to shake his hand after the ceremony ended. "I'm delighted that so many people remembered."

For Bradley, memories of the past "keep coming back a little bit here and a little bit there." One of the things this survivor appreciates, after seven decades, is the fact he knows where his ship is.

Sunk off Kwajalein in 1948 after being used in atomic bomb tests after the war, the USS Mugford may be resting at the bottom of the ocean, but it still exists, Bradley said. "So many of the ships were scrapped and they don't even exist anymore. I know exactly where my ship is. I delight in knowing where it is."

Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell recognized the survivors and gave brief remarks at the ceremony. He cited the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776, beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001 as four times when America seemed on the verge of becoming unhinged.

"God be thanked that the world did not, in fact, come unhinged that day," he said of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Retired Navy Rear Admiral Jeremy "Bear" Taylor said the occasion of Pearl Harbor Day is an important reminder of the need for a strong national defense.

Using the story of The Three Pigs and their houses of straw, sticks and bricks as an example, he said the world will always have its big bad wolves looking for an opportunity to attack.

"What sort of house do we need for our great country? Will it be straw or sticks, or do we need bricks?" he said. "Remember Pearl Harbor. Let's not go there again."

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com, Twitter: SteveFidel

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