Pearl Harbor attack remembered at the French King Bridge

  • Northfield VFW Post 9874 Mike Hastings and Mike Lapointe place a wreath in remembrance of Pearl Harbor remembrance during a ceremony Saturday at the French King Bridge in GIll. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People gather at the French King Bridge for a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Saturday held by the Vermont 1 chapter of Rolling Thunder in Gill STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Rolling Thunder Vermont 1 chapter Chaplain Doug McIntosh, left, and president Jeffrey Neipp speak during a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Saturday at the French King Bridge in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Tim McCrory, a Marine Corps veteran from Bernardston, speaks during a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Saturday at the French King Bridge in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Rolling Thunder Vermont 1 chapter president Jeffrey Neipp speaks during a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Saturday at the French King Bridge in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Rolling Thunder Vermont 1 chapter current president Jeffrey Neipp, right, hands a wreath to former president John Laughton to be placed on the gazebo at the French King Bridge after a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Saturday in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2019 1:01:20 AM

GILL — It was a sunny morning in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. But shortly before 8 a.m., the skies darkened with hundreds of Japanese planes dropping bombs, killing more than 2,000 U.S. military members and shattering America’s state of peace.

Saturday was the 78th anniversary of the Japanese Empire’s attack on Pearl Harbor, which ushered the U.S. into World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history that claimed — even by conservative estimates — 400,000 U.S. soldiers’ lives and 70 million lives globally.

And although the last Massachusetts veteran to survive Pearl Harbor died last month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was right when he said Dec. 7 would be “a date which will live in infamy.”

“Most of us here today were not even born when the Pearl Harbor attack happened, but we understand the importance of history and the consequences of we don’t remember Dec. 7, 1941,” said Jeffrey Neipp, president of the Vermont 1 chapter of Rolling Thunder.

The Vermont 1 chapter of Rolling Thunder held a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony, as it does every year, at the French King Bridge in Gill. Dozens of veterans and residents remembered the attack with thoughts, prayers and the posting of a wreath decorated with flags representing the U.S. military branches by the bridge’s gazebo.

“The attack lasted for 90 minutes. This was the U.S. entry into World War II,” Neipp said.

According to Neipp, the local chapter of Rolling Thunder has been holding a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony for 15 years, and the event’s grown substantially. French King Bridge is a visible location for the remembrance, but if it gets any bigger, a venue change might be in order, said Neipp, himself a U.S. Army veteran. The first year only drew about half a dozen people, he said, but now both sides of Route 2 become lined with parked cars for the event.

Rolling Thunder is a nationwide veterans and prisoners of war advocacy group and motorcycle club, that also advocates for and brings awareness to U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who were killed in action or went missing in action.

Doug McIntosh, Rolling Thunder’s Vermont 1 chapter chaplain, recited a prayer to remember those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Their sacrifices were not in vain. They defended America’s freedom and demonstrated her goodness,” he said.

McIntosh also paid respect to those who survived Pearl Harbor, and to others who fought for the U.S. throughout the larger conflict.

“They carried on with life even though they bore with them the haunting memories,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Orange, whose father fought in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy, said Dec. 7 is an extremely important day to him.

“I come here every year to honor those that fought, from every branch,” he said. “This means a lot to me every year.”

Oak Ridge Detachment Marine Corps League members also attended the ceremony, which included a shooting guard, posting of the colors and taps played by Orange resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran George Willard.

Also remembered at the ceremony was George Hursey, Massachusetts’ last known survivor of Pearl Harbor, who passed away at age 98 on Nov. 5 at a Brockton nursing home.

A U.S. Army veteran, Hursey’s unit fired artillery at Japanese aircraft during the attack.

Tim McCrory, a Marine Corps veteran from Bernardston, said Hursey must have been “startled” when Japanese planes swooped in unexpectedly one morning, dropping bombs and killing more than 2,000 U.S. service members during the surprise attack.

Hursey would also go on to survive the Battle of Guadalcanal, a ferocious battle in the Solomon Islands between allied forces and Japan. That battle spanned six months in 1942 and 1943 and ended in an allied victory.

McCrory, attending Saturday’s remembrance with the Oak Ridge Detachment Marine Corps League, the Bernardston chapter of the nationwide nonprofit Marine Corps veterans’ group, spoke of Hursey’s accomplishments and tenacity.

“As bad as Pearl Harbor was, Guadalcanal was a hundred times worse,” McCrory said.

Hursey passed away “78 years later and 5,000 miles away from Honolulu,” but Hursey, and the attack, will not be forgotten, McCrory said.

He added, “May he rest in peace.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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