×

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony held at French King Bridge

  • Attendees of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west dnd of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • Rolling Thunder Vermont 1 Chapter President Jeff Neipp opens the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west end of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • Korean War veteran Dave Bramhall spoke during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west end of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Attendees of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west end of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Color guard at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west end of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Korean War veteran Dave Bramhall, center, spoke during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at the west end of the French King Bridge at noon on Thursday. December 7, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—



Recorder Staff
Thursday, December 07, 2017

GILL — Teenagers Bill and Bob Messer were at home in Bernardston listening to the radio on Dec. 7, 1941, when they learned of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.

Exactly 76 years later, the brothers stood together with dozens of veterans to honor the 2,400 American service members killed and those injured in the sneak attack that thrust the United States into World War II. The Messers, both U.S. Navy veterans who enlisted in 1942, laid a wreath in memory of Pearl Harbor’s victims during a ceremony held at the west end parking lot of the French King Bridge along Route 2. The noon event was organized by the Vermont 1 chapter of Rolling Thunder, a nationwide advocacy group that fights for prisoners of war and service members missing in action from American wars.

Jeffrey Neipp, chapter president, welcomed the dozens of people in attendance Thursday and stressed the magnitude of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“We’re all gathered here to remember a moment in history that must never be forgotten,” he said.

Neipp also acknowledged Bill and Bob Messer, 94 and 92 respectively, and thanked them for their service, noting them to be members of the nation’s “greatest generation.” Neipp then led the veterans in saluting the Messers. The applause that followed was muffled by the gloves and mittens people were wearing to protect their hands from the cold.

Dave Bramhall, who served in the Navy during the Korean War and later worked as superintendent of Orange public schools, recalled the attack that occurred when he was a boy and the gravity of the events that followed. The attack, an attempt to cripple the U.S. Pacific Fleet, came on a quiet Sunday morning and shocked much of the nation. The following day, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and referred to Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

Congress formally declared war on the Empire of Japan, ushering the United States into a conflict that claimed tens of millions of lives. Germany and Italy days later declared war on the United States, which reciprocated.

“So we rolled up our sleeves and we took our nation to war,” Bramhall said. “During that time, our lives changed tremendously. I couldn’t list how my life changed as a little kid.”

But Bramhall reminded people that the bravery and patriotism of the American people coincided with a dark chapter in national history.

“Outrage ... became public policy soon after (the attack),” he said.

Anti-Japanese sentiment soared and roughly 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity were relocated to internment camps throughout the United States after Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942. Bramhall also mentioned the case of Daniel Inouye, a Japanese-American who later represented Hawaii in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Inouye served in the Army’s 442nd Infantry Regiment, made up primarily of Japanese-Americans, and lost part of his right arm to a grenade wound, only to be denied service at a San Francisco barbershop after returning home. Bramhall said the 442nd fought in Europe and its soldiers accrued 9,486 Purple Heart decorations and 21 Medals of Honor.

Bramhall told those in attendance that in American media, Japanese people were often portrayed as cartoonish animals and he fears the country is dangerously close to once again banning, evicting or interning people based on their background.

“I’ve told you this story, today, because I want you to remember that everybody in this country deserves the process of law, and we need to think before we do anything and put a bunch of people in jail,” he said. “It was a terrible thing that we did to those people.”

Members of the Marine Corps League fired off a volley salute and “Taps” was played before the ceremony concluded. Most of the people in attendance went to the French King Restaurant, on the other side of the French King Bridge, for refreshments.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 258
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli