CHESTERTON | It takes a lot of planning and preparation to properly commemorate something as historically significant as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle knows what it takes.
From 2002 to 2006, Doyle was the National Park Service's chief of operations at the USS Arizona war memorial and museum and in charge of every aspect of the annual tribute. Ceremonies first were held during World War II, but the National Park Service took over handling them from the Navy in 1980, Doyle said.
The park service used to hold a big ceremony for both Memorial Day and Dec. 7, but they got so big it was decided to focus the major activity on the latter. Doyle said planning for most years takes about six months. For the 10-year anniversaries (50th, 60th, 70th), planning starts as early as a year and a half in advance.
"You have to plan for a regular day and have a staff for that," he said, describing a "regular day" as being about 4,500 visitors. "Then you plan for a two-hour ceremony with several guest speakers, several color guards and a sub-theme."
The sub-theme for one year was how Hollywood looks at the attack and the guest speaker was actor Ernest Borgnine. Retired news anchor Tom Brokaw was the speaker for the 65th anniversary, which occurred shortly after Brokaw's book "Greatest Generation" appeared in print. For the 70th anniversary, three days of activities were arranged, Doyle said.
"They have to take care of the invitations and the protocols," he said. "You have to make sure to invite everybody -- all the generals, admirals, congressional delegations, governors, mayor of Honolulu, and the consul generals of all the nations with representatives in Hawaii. Then you have to figure out the seating arrangements and have escorts for the foreign delegations who speak their language."
The attack began about 7:45 a.m., but the ceremony starts at 7:58, which is when the attack was over Pearl Harbor itself and the Schofield barracks. After a moment of silence, a Navy ship passes in review followed by a 21-gun salute and a dual playing of taps before the program begins.
After the guest speakers and the bands playing military music have been heard, the guests are taken to the USS Arizona Memorial for the laying of up to 100 wreaths at the wall, which takes about an hour. Later in the day, a separate ceremony is held for survivors of the Arizona who have died and want to be interred with their shipmates.
Doyle said the cremated remains are placed by divers in the foundation of the No. 4 gun turret at the stern of the ship with full military honors. Their names are added to the wall in the memorial to accompany the list of the 1,177 who died Dec. 7 aboard the Arizona.
As a former park ranger, Doyle is invited back each year to attend the ceremony, but he said he wasn't able to make this year's. He said most of the speakers and guests pay their own expenses and most of the rest, including feeding the attendees, is paid from donations to the memorial foundation.