PACIFIC OCEAN –- Ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor took place aboard each of the three ships that make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) as the unit conducted operations in the Western Pacific Ocean, Dec. 7.
The Makin Island ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), which serves as the command ship for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as well as the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).
In the most symbolic of the three ceremonies, hundreds of Sailors and Marines gathered aboard USS Pearl Harbor to honor the 2,459 Americans who lost their lives during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on the ship’s namesake.
“It seems fitting that the ship that carries the name Pearl Harbor is deployed on this historic day,” said Cmdr. Homer Denius, USS Pearl Harbor’s commanding officer, during the ceremony. “We travel around the globe with the understanding that, just like that day in 1941, the unexpected can happen at any time.”
Denius said he often tells of how his ship belongs to those Pearl Harbor veterans who fought bravely on that particular day and throughout the Pacific theater during World War II.
“Our presence is a testament to the American spirit,” said Denius. “Seventy years ago an unexpected attack left our fleet damaged beyond belief. Yet, we rebuilt, and thanks to the perseverance of that generation of heroes, our Navy has never been stronger.”
The largest of the three ceremonies took place aboard USS Makin Island, where nearly all of the ship’s more than 2,000 Sailors and Marines joined together for a special remembrance ceremony that included a ceremonial wreath-laying and the playing of Taps to honor those lost during the attack.
“We go forward with our heads held high, but look back and remember where we come from,” said Col. Michael Hudson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU, during the ceremony aboard USS Makin Island.
On board USS New Orleans, a similar event took place where hundreds of Sailors and Marines also paid tribute to those who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941 while learning about the role of the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA 32) and how the city of New Orleans also played an important role in World War II.
Cmdr. Dennis Jacko, USS Orleans’ commanding officer spoke of how the have cruiser USS New Orleans was in port at Pearl Harbor that famous day, and how the crew returned fire and saved the ship to become one of the most decorated ship’s of the war.
“New Orleans was the site of Higgins Industries, which invented and produced Higgins landing craft as well as Higgins torpedo boats,” said Jacko. “The amphibious landing crafts were used throughout WWII and were cited by President Eisenhower as instrumental in the war effort.”
During the ceremony Jacko also told the crew about boat designer Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana native whose company built the boats right in the city of New Orleans using local labor to support the war efforts. New Orleans is also home to the National D-Day museum, which honors all World War II veterans.
While each of the three ceremonies was uniquely tailored to recognize the ties each of the three ships has to World War II, all honored the lives of those lost on that day.
Capt. Humberto Quintanilla II, PHIBRON-5 commander, spoke during the ceremony on board USS Makin Island and focused his comments on how the Japanese failed to launch a third wave of the attack, which would have destroyed the shipyard repair and refueling infrastructure at Pearl Harbor. As a result, many of the ships were able to be repaired and join the U.S. Pacific Fleet to eventually defeat the Japanese Empire.
“Pearl Harbor, a day that lives in infamy, has a lesson for us all as a nation,” said Quintanilla. “The defense industrial base, the private corporate venture between the U.S. Government and our high technology corporations, must continue to be strong.”
The Makin Island ARG visited historic Pearl Harbor Nov. 21-23, as the first port visit of their current deployment. During the visit, Sailors and Marines took the time to visit many of the historic sites including the USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Museum.
The mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy’s Maritime Strategy when forward deployed.