A Pearl Harbor survivor was honored during a 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony at Tryon Palace Wednesday morning, while the commanding officer of Cherry Point spoke on the significance of the day, comparing it to 9/11, which he described as “this generation’s Pearl Harbor.”
Thomas Poole, the honoree, who sat in the front row at Cullman Performance Hall where the ceremony took place, is a 98-year-old veteran who was a petty officer first class on board the USS Raleigh, an Omaha class light cruiser, on the morning of Dec. 7.
In an interview following the program, Poole said he had been in his bunk when the ship was struck by a torpedo launched from the attacking Japanese aircraft.
“It sunk almost to the deck,” he said, recalling the confusion of the day. The ship was struck again, but the crew worked together to save the craft from complete destruction and also shot down five aircraft in the battle.
“We didn’t lose a man,” Poole said.
The Raleigh was salvaged and returned to service in 1942, and Poole went on to serve on a number of other ships, including the USS Massachusetts, USS Meredith and USS Oklahoma.
Poole retired from the Navy in 1957 and worked at Cherry Point for another 20 years.
The program opened with a performance by the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band and a welcome by Tryon Palace Executive Director Lee Johnson.
Following patriotic formalities of the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem and invocation, Col. Todd Ferry, Cherry Point’s commanding officer, spoke.
Ferry, who credited his admiration for the generation that fought in World War II for his own military service, spoke on the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor.
“As I get older and reflect on historical events, I ask how I would have reacted if I were thrust into the same situation,” he said. “As a Marine I ask, how would I have fared at Pearl Harbor, or Iwo Jima or Okinawa?”
Ferry also connected Pearl Harbor, which brought about America’s entry into World War II, to Sept. 11, 2001, the opening event in the current War on Terror, calling 9/11 “this generation’s Pearl Harbor.”
He pointed out that, for many, 9/11 is already a part of an unexperienced past. “My father was born two years after Pearl Harbor,” he said, but added that for he and his father both, it was a defining event for their generation that heralded a new age for the nation.
“My oldest son right now is a freshman,” he said. “This year’s freshman class in high school in America was not (yet) born on September 11, 2011. To them, 9/11 is just a history event.
“Like Pearl Harbor is to myself and my father, however, history is vital for the future of this nation. We must commit and recommit to ourselves to teaching the study, the remembrance, the celebration of such events such as Pearl Harbor Day.”
Ferry concluded by stating that, “We now have a new generation of Americans, fighting and preparing to fight. I believe that this new generation of Americans is every bit as brave and unselfish as those who’ve come before them, and they, too, will see the fight to victory. I am certain that as our nation faces great challenges ahead, my prayer is that this generation and our next will rise up to the high calling.”
Contact Bill Hand at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-635-5677 and follow him @BillHandNBSJ.