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A "day of sacred remembrance," the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was observed at the Utah Capitol Wednesday, as speakers tried to convey the gravity of the day and the gratitude of a nation.
Seven Utah survivors of Pearl Harbor were honored with music and rousing words, and their 2,403 comrades killed that December morning were given a 21-cannon salute and a long, somber silence.
Retired Navy Rear Admiral Jeremy Taylor of Ogden, the guest speaker at the ceremony sponsored by the Utah Department of Veteran Affairs, recalled how 'Remember Pearl Harbor' became a battle cry for Americans to prevail in the war that followed.
"'Remember Pearl Harbor' is what it took to turn a peaceful nation into one that was willing to go kill," said Taylor, who was six years old when hundreds of Japanese bomber planes struck the Navy at Pearl Harbor.
"We sacrificed," said Taylor, who recalls saving tin foil and lard as America's resources were redirected to war. "We were all called to war."
One veteran attending Wednesday's commemoration, Eugene Wagstaff of Holladay, was remembering the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
Wagstaff enlisted in the Navy at age 19 just months after the attack. He wore his dress blues to the ceremony on Wednesday.
Wagstaff was an electrician's mate and served on the USS Underhill, which was struck by in a suicide attack by a submarine off the coast of Formosa in July 1945 and sunk. Wagstaff was among the 124 sailors who survived; 112 died.
On Wednesday, his nephew, Terry Olsen of West Bountiful, presented Wagstaff with a Navy pea coat to complete the uniform.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said Pearl Harbor was one of four times in this country's history that "the future seemed to come unhinged." Of those four the American Revolution, the start of the Civil War, Sept. 11, 2001, and Pearl Harbor, the latter most seemed to threaten the future.
"I don't know that any of them equaled that day, Dec. 7, a beautiful Sunday morning in 1941," Bell said. "God be thanked the world did not come unhinged that day."
Today, those visiting the National Park Service's monument over the sunken USS Arizona, where 1,177 sailors and Marines lost their lives, can still see the oil bubbling up from the ship, Bell noted. "It truly is a scar on the body of this great country."
Four Pearl Harbor survivors who are members of the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association Max Berggraaf, Marion Kesler, Kenneth Potts and Ernal Underwood were given plaques. Three others who attended the ceremony Forrest Kessinger, John Algood and Victor Bradley will be honored in a separate ceremony because the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs was previously unaware of them.
Timpview High School's band performed along with the band's color guard. About 100 band students from the Provo High just returned from Pearl Harbor.
A belated salute
The 21-gun salute during Utah's Pearl Harbor commemoration Wednesday morning was timed to coincide precisely with the moment 70 years ago when the Japanese attack began at 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.
The only problem is, Honolulu is three hours behind Utah this time of year. So when the salute began in Utah at 11:55 a.m. Wednesday, it was 8:55 a.m. in Honolulu.
Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, said he and his staff had the right intent if the wrong time.
"You'll have my resignation in the morning," Schow said, tongue in cheek. "I'll fall on my sword."