Bob Blum shook more than a dozen hands at Lake Havasu City’s VFW post on Wednesday – many of whom were much younger than himself. They gathered to remember the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and pay homage to those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“A day that will live in infamy,” Franklin Roosevelt famously called it. Every American knows of the events that took place 75 years ago, when the forces of Imperial Japan executed a surprise attack that killed 2,403 Americans and wounded more than 1,000 more. Everyone remembers – but Blum was the only veteran present who understood.
Seventy-five years ago, Blum was a 22-year-old private in the Army Air Corps, stationed on a Hawaii army base near Pearl Harbor.
He remembers waking to the sound of an explosion, and opening his tent flap to see Japanese aircraft flying overhead. The rest was chaos, destruction and panic. Blum has spent decades since then, reading hundreds of books about the attack in an effort to grasp the true scope of what happened that day. Blum now considers himself to be an authority on the events that took place in Pearl Harbor.
Blum traveled to Hawaii in 2014 and 2015 to pay his respects at the memorial of the U.S.S. Arizona, which was sunk during the attack at Pearl Harbor. Now 97 years old, a short-term medical issue prevented Blum from returning for the site’s 75-year anniversary.
“A lot of us from back then like to swap war stories with each other,” Blum said at the VFW gathering. “Here, there’s no one to share with…but it’s an honor to be here with (Havasu’s veterans). It’s a resurgence.”
The number of Havasu’s veterans who survived Pearl Harbor, or the war that followed, are diminishing, but their lessons have been well-learned, and well-honored by the VFW. VFW Commander Steve Knock led the memorial ceremony on Wednesday, as Havasu Mayor Mark Nexsen and City Councilwoman Donna Brister sat in attendance.
“This post has always been big on honoring our past veterans,” Knock said. “The attack on Pearl Harbor is something that we see has changed civilization as a whole – It was the first time America was ever attacked by surprise. We realize that America must be forever diligent to what’s happening outside its borders.”
When Knock addressed the gathered veterans on Wednesday, he described the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and their scope in American history: “Seventy-five years ago, that attack awoke a sleeping giant, and produced what’s been called the ‘Greatest Generation.’ Although it was a day of tragedy, it reawakened our pride and revitalized our national spirit. We must never assume that because we enjoy an abundance of freedom, we’re safe from danger.”
At the closing of the ceremony, the gathered veterans released 75 black balloons into the sky.