The annual observance of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is scheduled locally for Thursday morning at the Cleveland Elks Lodge, and will include the community's only veteran still alive who was there on …
The annual observance of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is scheduled locally for Thursday morning at the Cleveland Elks Lodge, and will include the community's only veteran still alive who was there on that fateful day.
George Allen, 95, and Bradley County's lone Pearl Harbor survivor, is looking forward to this year's 10 a.m. service at Lodge 1944 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.
The Elks Lodge is located in downtown Cleveland, at 235 Second St. N.E.
This year's program is being organized by the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Thursday is the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack in Hawaii that led the U.S. into World War II in the Pacific.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks, who represents the 24th District in the Tennessee House Of Representatives, will be the guest speaker.
Allen, who had some interesting comments this week regarding the annual celebration, will light a memorial candle to honor the victims of the attack and fellow American veterans who took part in the war.
Allen said he continues to be thankful every year that he survived the Japanese attack 76 years ago. By his account, his survival was by a matter of inches!
He said he and other members of his unit had shipped out to Pearl Harbor before the attack, although they had been assigned to the Philippines.
On that Sunday morning, they were on "Kitchen Patrol" duty at the mess hall, and were outside peeling potatoes. He said he saw the planes approaching and called his fellow soldiers' attention to the formation.
Allen said he exclaimed, "Look at those birds!"
A strafing run by one of the Japanese pilots, and the position of those on KP duty, is something Allen is thankful for.
"We were seated on stools, and the bullets slammed into the building just above our heads," he said. "If we had been standing up, we would have been killed."
Allen said the pilot swung around the building and passed back over their heads. "He had pulled back the cockpit, had his arm laying on the edge of the window, and we could see his face," he said. "By then, we knew what was going on!"
The elder Bradley County veteran also discussed a story printed in Sunday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, concerning the fact the military has now identified at least 100 sailors and Marines who died on the USS Oklahoma.
New DNA technology has allowed their remains to be identified.
Allen said the Oklahoma was located on "Battleship row," less than a half mile away from the mess hall.
"It's great that the families of those victims now have additional closure," he said.
The remains of several have been sent to their hometowns, while others are being reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery in the Pacific, located in an extinct volcanic crater in Honolulu.
Before this action, the remains of 388 victims from the Oklahoma were commingled in 46 burial plots.
Allen's lighting of the memorial candle this year will be an even more significant tribute than in the past.
SAR members will present a memorial wreath Thursday to honor those who fought in the war. The Junior ROTC will post the nation's colors to begin the ceremony, and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland will lead the invocation and benediction.
The Bradley County Veterans Funeral Honor Guard will fire the traditional 21-gun salute on the lawn at the Elks Lodge, following the formal program, and buglers from the Cleveland High School Band will close the program with "Taps."
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and other city and county officials will be attending the ceremony. Area veterans groups and the public are invited to attend the program, which has become a December Cleveland tradition.
The city’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony was first organized over a dozen years ago by Bill Norwood, a Korean War prisoner of war, and other veterans.
That group, and Norwood, said the coordination of the event had become more than they could handle, and asked the SAR to adopt the program as one of its annual programs.
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