By Kristin Bednarski
A Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony was held in New Richmond Dec. 2.
The ceremony included musical performances and presentations from several individuals, including local Pearl Harbor survivor Joe Whitt.
Whitt said he joined the United States Navy when he was only 17, and he was based at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii several months before the attack.
“I think everyone knew there would be war, but not at Pearl Harbor,” Whitt said. “Low and behold, it came to us. We were so unprepared.”
Whitt said he remembers he and other servicemen were all getting ready for Christmas in the days leading up to the attack, buying small gifts to send back to family members.
The Sunday morning of the attack, Whitt said they were just waking up and getting ready to start the day when everything unfolded.
“I had just finished eating breakfast,” Whitt said. “I was sitting in our compartment when an announcement came on to close all water-tight doors.”
Whitt said he remembers being confused and reacting to the announcement. He said shortly after, when they asked for volunteers up on deck, he went.
“They handed us a rifle and a bandolier of ammunition,” Whitt said. “I loaded that and went up on deck.”
Whitt said when he arrived on deck he looked around to see the attack occurring.
“Right in front of us was the most God-awful sight in the world,” Whitt said.
He said the water was on fire, there were explosions, ships were being hit and sinking and planes were dropping down low to the water shooting.
“They hit five men where I was standing,” Whitt said.
He said he watched several ships get hit and begin to sink as he began shooting at the planes overhead.
“The Oklahoma turned over and trapped a lot of men inside,” Whitt said. “They swarmed on the U.S. Nevada like a bunch of bees.”
He said men who were still alive in the water were covered in oil and most were badly burned.
“It was just a horrible thing,” Whitt said.
Whitt said Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of his war experience, and he continued to serve during the rest of World War II.
Whitt said he is thankful that he survived Pearl Harbor and war and returned home unharmed.
“I thank God for that,” Whitt said.
Guests at the ceremony applauded Whitt for his service and for sharing his story during the ceremony.
Ronald Hartman, former commander of the Clermont County American Legion, asked all World War II veterans, followed by veterans of all wars to stand an be honored for their service to the United States.
Guests also heard from several other speakers during the ceremony, including New Richmond Fire and EMS Chief Mark Baird on behalf of village officials, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, State Representative Danny Bubp, Town Crier Bill Knepp and William Harris, a retired Anderson High School teacher.
Each individual encouraged residents to reflect on the Pearl Harbor attack that killed more than 2,400 men December 7, 1941, and to be thankful for servicemen and women who protect American freedoms.
John Hale and Stephanie Williford as well as Trisha Brush, Chip Blome and Martin and Elise Bezold, members of the Mt. Zion St. Paul United Church of Christ, all preformed several patriotic songs during the ceremony. Richard Hedrick also played Taps.
Clermont County Commissioners proclaimed Dec. 2-8 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Week in Clermont County during their Nov. 28 session and proclaimed Dec. 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. They advised flags on all government offices be flown at half-staff on Dec. 7.
New Richmond hosts a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony each year at the New Richmond Community Center at 212 Market Street.