HONOLULU – A ceremony in Pearl Harbor for the 75th
The plan before Friday was to gather about 200 people, mostly WWII veterans, their families and government officials, on the battleship USS Missouri, which hosted the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
However, an announcement made on Friday evening said those planning to fly to the state will no longer be invited to protect aging veterans – mostly in their 90s – from COVID-19.
Tony Vericella, Executive Director of the Commemoration Committee for the 75th Anniversary.
“We’re going to do as many things as possible to integrate and name all of the people who were hoping to be here,” said Vericella. “Everyone felt that the best and safest thing about World War II veterans coming to Hawaii from outside is to get them involved virtually in the best possible way.”
Vericella said they were confident about the local security measures put in place for mainland veterans once they arrived for a special flight from Oakland to Honolulu and beyond, but the risks for those traveling to California from their hometowns were increasing great.
He said federal and local officials “did not want to take this particular risk”.
In a story published early Friday, World War II veteran Jerry Pedersen, who was aboard the USS Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender, told The Associated Press that he had been looking forward to the event for years, but he understands the risks.
“I was told what to do to be responsible for myself and others,” said Pedersen.
“I want to go back because that day, as far as I remember what happened, why we were there, the fact that it was the end of the realities of war and killing and everything, it was the first day that I had to answer, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ ”said Pedersen, who turned 95 last week.
He received the news on Sunday and later told the AP that he was disappointed but understood why the decision was made.
“Well, I was very disappointed, yes. I was hoping to see maybe a friend or two, ”he said. “I think we will have something to ourselves here, and I want to at least share with my family and a few other people some of the feelings I wanted to express when I got there.”
These feelings are complicated, said Pedersen as he dedicated his life to peace after the war.
“There must be no more war,” Pedersen said as he remembered the words General Douglas McArthur had uttered on the day of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. But “we are still wavering over many things that are necessary to bring us peace.”
Organizers now say fewer than 50 people, mostly veterans and their families, will attend the September 2nd ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. The same preventive medical check-ups and safety measures will be carried out as previously planned.
“We look forward to honoring our World War II veterans whose service has demonstrated the selfless behavior of the Greatest Generation,” said Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command in a statement. “These heroes not only served to protect and defend our nation, but also freed hundreds of millions of freedom-loving people and thus laid the foundation for the rules-based international order that still exists today.”
With the exception of the actual anniversary celebration, most of the events related to the commemoration have been canceled.