Legion veterans will never forget Pearl Harbor

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Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times
The Amherst Veterans Military Honor Guard fires a volley in remembrance of those lives lost in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

Every Dec. 7, Amherst veterans come together to share a lunch of Navy beans and cornbread.

The simple meal has been a tradition since the days of the Revolutionary War. And it’s a fitting one to continue each Pearl Harbor Day.

It was shared Saturday as members of American Legion Post 118 paid their respects to the 2,403 Americans killed in the Japanese attack that sent the United States roaring into World War II.

At 6 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941 — that day that lives on in infamy, even 78 years later — the imperial Japanese attack fleet lay about 220 miles off the Hawaiian coast.

“The goal was to destroy the United States Pacific fleet moored at Pearl Harbor, along with various military facilities and airfields throughout the island,” said Post Commander Tom Hauck during the Amherst Legion’s ceremony.

Americans were caught completely unprepared for the horrible damage inflicted on U.S. sailors, ships and aircraft, he said.

After the attack, Congress declared war and the entire nation mobilized.

At home, the American economy was reshaped to support the war effort, while 16 million men and women served in the armed forces.

From Amherst, nearly 1,200 men and women became part of the Allied fighting force.

Thirty-two never returned. “They gave their lives in defense of this great nation,” Hauck said.

Their names are cast in brass and set in stone outside the Legion post, where a rifle salute was offered Saturday.

In addition to veterans, Amherst police officers, firefighters and Mayor Mark Costilow stood by in a show of silent solidarity.