On Pearl Harbor Day, Bayfield remembers losing three of its own

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 10:24 PM
Tony Schrier of American Legion Post 143, right, addresses attendees at a Pearl Harbor memorial event Thursday at Pine River Cemetery. Herman Todeschi, left, one of the last World War II veterans in Bayfield, attended the event.
A wreath bearing the images of Ralph Fife, Eugene Berry and Harold Carmack is on display Thursday at the Veterans Memorial in the Pine River Cemetery in Bayfield. The three men died on the USS Arizona in 1941 in Pearl Harbor.
Harold Carmack’s Purple Heart was presented to his family after he died on the USS Arizona. His nephew, Jon Carmack of Durango, brought the medal to Bayfield Pearl Harbor Day ceremony on Thursday.
Herman Todeschi, front left, Bob Pope, left rear, and Tony Schrier are among the veterans who attended a Pearl Harbor Day memorial event Thursday in Bayfield.
Memorial bricks bear the names of veterans from the Bayfield area, including the three men who died on the USS Arizona in 1941 in Pearl Harbor.
President Donald Trump signs a proclamation for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day with survivors of the attack, during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday in Washington.

At 8:06 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was attacked in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

A powder magazine exploded, nearly ripping the ship in half.

The surprise bombing raid plunged the U.S. into World War II.

On board were three men from Bayfield: Ralph Fife, a 1940 graduate of Bayfield High School, and Eugene Berry and Harold Carmack, both 1941 graduates.

On Thursday, members of American Legion Post 143 honored their memories at the new Veterans Memorial at the Pine River Cemetery in Bayfield. Their relatives, Jon Carmack, Vivian Tate and Elaine Berry Baird, were there.

“It is our opinion that no other town of our size lost three residents that day in the USS Arizona,” said Tony Schrier, a member of the Bayfield post. On what later came to be called Pearl Harbor Day, 1,177 members of the U.S. Navy and Marines died on the ship, almost half of the casualties in the attack.

“These young men had decided to join the Navy, of their own choice, before a draft was implemented and the U.S. was not involved in any conflict,” Schrier said.

On that day, 1,177 members of the U.S. Navy and Marines died on the ship, almost half of the casualties in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Post members lowered the three flags at the memorial to half staff in their memory as Tim Lovejoy played “Taps.” About 30 people attended the ceremony, and the many veterans snapped to attention to salute as the flags were lowered.

Bob Pope, a U.S. Marine veteran, read a poem about World War II sailors by Mac McGovern.

Jon Carmack of Durango said his father, Jack, was close to his big brother, Harold. Jack also enlisted in the Navy, waiting until the spring of 1942 because his father asked him to wait to spare his mother more grief, Carmack remembered. He returned home in 1945.

More than 2,300 servicemen were killed in the assault carried out by Japanese airplanes. Nearly half were on the USS Arizona, which exploded and sank after it was hit by two bombs. Most of the Arizona’s fallen, include the three from Bayfield, are entombed in the battleship, which lies at the bottom of the harbor.

At Pearl HarborIn Hawaii, survivors gathered at the site of the attack to pay homage to the thousands who died. About 20 survivors attended the event at a grassy spot overlooking the harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. They were joined by about 2,000 Navy sailors, officials and members of the public.

Herbert Elfring remembered hearing bombs explode and first thought the explosions were U.S. training exercises.

Then a fighter plane with Japan’s World War II Rising Sun insignia strafed the Camp Makaole base where Elfring, 19 at the time, was serving. The bullets missed him by about 15 feet.

“When I looked up and saw the red ball on the fuselage I knew it wasn’t our plane,” he said. “I knew it was a Japanese plane.”

The Jackson, Michigan, man is now 95 and said returning to Pearl Harbor for the anniversary of the attack makes him feel special because he’s one of the few remaining survivors.

“I have one of those caps that says ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor’ on it,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people come up and thank me for my service.”

Elfring was in the military for the entire war, serving in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. When it ended, he went to the University of Michigan on the GI Bill, worked for a gas and electric company and raised a family of five.

The ceremony in Hawaii began with a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. in honor of those who lost their lives – the same time the attack began. Four Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighter jets broke the silence, with one plane peeling off from the group to symbolize servicemen still missing.

“The heroes with us today ensured Pearl Harbor would not be the end of the story,” said Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift. “Instead of retreating from the fight, America’s Pacific Fleet dug in its heels. Along the way, they forged a cultural heritage of resilience that sailors continue to draw upon today.”

The Navy and National Park Service host the ceremony each year. Usually, a Pacific Fleet vessel with sailors manning the rails passes by the USS Arizona Memorial during the event. This year, no ship participated because of naval operational commitments, said Bill Doughty, a spokesman for Navy Region Hawaii.

In WashingtonPresident Donald Trump kibitzed with World War II veterans at the White House on as he signed a proclamation declaring it National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

A half dozen veterans of the attack, wearing medals and military hats, attended the ceremony and bantered with the president as he commemorated their service.

“All American hearts are filled with gratitude for their service, their sacrifice and their presence here today,” Trump said.

Among those attending was 98-year-old Mickey Ganitch, who was on the USS Pennsylvania’s football team and getting ready for a championship game against the crew of the USS Arizona when Japan attacked.

“You never got that game, huh?” asked the president.

“We had a war to fight,” Ganitch responded before kneeling to mimic his best football move – and repeating the move at Trump’s request.

Ganitch later broke out into song, delivering a rendition of “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

“You really made this very exciting,” Trump remarked, thanking him for the “free entertainment.”

Trump said he hoped the vets would join him every year to mark the occasion for the next – presuming he runs and wins re-election – seven years.

“Today our entire nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor and the brave warriors who on that day stood tall and fought for America,” he said.

The president invited the men to see the Oval Office after the signing, promising them pens and autographs.

Trump last month paid a visit to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor and its memorial to the USS Arizona before he departed for his first trip to Asia. The surprise attack by Japan killed more than 2,400 Americans and plunged the U.S. into World War II.