By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The city and the West Haven Veterans Council commemorated Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on the Veterans Walk of Honor in Bradley Point Park on Dec. 7.
Before a gathering of veterans, city officials and residents, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi delivered poignant remarks honoring the American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice 80 years ago during Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Dec. 7, 1941, just before 8 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, a swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes descended on the island of Oahu and bombed the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,335 service members and 68 civilians.
“This event would launch the neutral United States into action during World War II,” said Rossi, speaking in front of a black granite memorial in honor of World War II Army Pfc. William A. Soderman, who received the Medal of Honor after distinguishing himself in December 1944 while defending an important road junction near Rocherath, Belgium.
“The men and women who lived during this tumultuous time would become known as the greatest generation,” Rossi said. “As time passes, events, such as the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, seem to drift into the historic domain. It is essential that we recognize the valor of our brave servicemen and -women who prevented tyranny.”
The solemn service featured a presentation of the colors by the West Haven Police Honor Guard, and Louis P. Esposito Jr., Rossi’s executive assistant, served as the master of ceremonies.
Representing the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Florence Stoeber, the wife of the late Jack Stoeber, a Navy veteran of Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima who was a regular at West Haven’s Pearl Harbor rites for many years, read the names of the 18 Connecticut servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor. Firefighter Tony Mancini tolled the West Haven Fire Department’s chrome bell each instant a name was called.
Stoeber, whose ashes were scattered in Pearl Harbor after he died Jan. 16, 2016, at age 97, was a .50-caliber machine-gunner aboard the destroyer tender USS Whitney in the Pacific theater of World War II.
“We also honor the 18 military lives from Connecticut that were lost on Dec. 7, 1941,” Rossi said. “Their sacrifices, like all of our veterans’ sacrifices, will never be forgotten. We recognize these brave servicemen and -women’s contribution toward reconciliation and how that peace continues to create a brighter future for us all.”
Floyd Welch, Connecticut’s last known Pearl Harbor survivor, died Aug. 17, 2000, at age 99. Welch, of East Lyme, served aboard the battleship USS Maryland and helped save many lives aboard the bombarded battleship USS Oklahoma.
In observance of Pearl Harbor Day, Veterans Council President Dave Ricci led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and Vice President Steve Carney and member Rick Foley laid a wreath at the base of the William A. Soderman Memorial.
The ceremony included a procession of West Haven fire chiefs and officers and a flag-raising by the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard — composed of members of the West Haven Fire Department, the West Shore Fire Department and the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown.
It also included the national anthem sung by Nora E. Mullins, opening and closing prayers given by Councilman Victor M. Borras, D-8, and taps played by former West Shore Lt. Kevin McKeon.