BANGOR, Maine — A parade of veterans and a ceremonial wreath-laying on Wednesday will mark the 75th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the U.S. into World War II.
“All veterans from the state of Maine are invited to participate,” said Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day event coordinator Samuel Cannon, who took over last year for longtime organizer and World War II veteran Paul Colburn.
Gov. Paul LePage issued a press release Tuesday proclaiming Wednesday Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, “honoring the 75th anniversary of the attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and paying tribute to the sacrifices of those who were at Pearl Harbor that historic day,” and ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday.
Veterans who want to participate in the Bangor parade are asked to meet at the waterfront at about 11 a.m. for the 11:30 a.m. walk to where the annual wreath laying takes place — the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Kenduskeag Stream and bears the name of Willard C. Orr, a 1939 Bangor High School graduate who was the only Bangor resident to die in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
“Gov. [Paul] LePage will be there to give a speech and Chief Master Sgt. Dan Moore of the 101st [Air Refueling Wing]” will follow, said Cannon, a Hampden Veterans of Foreign Wars member. “We’re also recognizing three WWII veterans and giving them plaques: U.S. Marine Paul Wilbur; founder of Pearl Harbor ceremony, Paul Colburn; and Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Cole.”
Cole is in Hawaii for the anniversary, so a member of the American Legion Post No. 9, based in Machias, will be on hand to accept it for him, Cannon said.
Wilbur turned 17 in January 1942, and left high school, with his parents’ permission, to enlist in the Marines, which he did on Feb. 12, 1942.
Seventy-five years ago, Japanese aircraft were able to fly nearly undetected to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where they bombed and torpedoed the Navy fleet docked there. Twenty-one ships were sunk or badly damaged, 350 aircraft destroyed or damaged and 3,500 people killed or wounded, according to a history from the U.S. Navy.
“Pearl Harbor Day is one of the significant anniversaries of World War II, which reminds of the great sacrifices our military men and women bear to defend and protect our freedoms,” LePage said in his statement. “We are a brave and resilient nation because of these heroes, and I thank and honor the men and women, past and present, who have given so much for our way of life.”
Orr, whose name is listed on the first page of the World War II Book of Honor at Bangor Public Library, was working as head cook at Hickam Field when the first bombs were dropped on the Pacific island that Sunday in December.
This year, Bangor High School’s Junior ROTC will be joined by Junior ROTC members from Brewer and Old Town, and the Bangor-based University of Maine Augusta’s AmeriCorps VISTA is helping to sponsor the event, the organizer said.
“The Navy Operational Support Center in Bangor, led by Lt. Cmdr. Matt Billings, will be in charge of the wreath laying,” Cannon said.