By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The city and the West Haven Veterans Council commemorated Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day at the West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center on Dec. 7.
The ceremony, traditionally held on the Veterans Walk of Honor in Bradley Point Park, was moved indoors because of rain.
Before a gathering of veterans, city and state officials, and residents, Councilman Gary Donovan, D-at large, read prepared remarks on behalf of Mayor Nancy R. Rossi honoring the American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice 81 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 and thrusting America into World War II.
“Although the attack happened 81 years ago today, that doesn’t outweigh the suffering that is still felt,” said Donovan, speaking from a World War II exhibit in the museum at 30 Hood Terrace.
“Despite the event occurring more than eight decades ago, there are still dozens of survivors who still have to live with their memory of that fateful day,” said Donovan, flanked by a wingtip from a Japanese Zero fighter that was shot down by a Bridgeport anti-aircraft unit.
The solemn service featured a presentation of the colors by members of the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard, and Louis P. Esposito Jr., Rossi’s executive assistant, served as the master of ceremonies.
After thanking the veterans in attendance for their service, West Haven Fire Department Chief James P. O’Brien read the names of the 18 Connecticut servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor. Lt. Michael Farrelly rang the department’s chrome bell each instant a name was called as a line of chiefs, officers and firefighters from the West Haven, West Shore and City of West Haven Allingtown fire departments saluted.
“During the Pearl Harbor attack, we lost 18 soldiers from our own state of Connecticut,” Donovan said. “As we stand here in remembrance of all victims from the attack, I would like to extend my condolences to all of those who lost family members to the attack.”
At the end of Rossi’s poignant remarks, Donovan recognized Floyd Welch, Connecticut’s last known Pearl Harbor survivor, who died in August 2020 at age 99. Welch, of East Lyme, served aboard the battleship USS Maryland and helped save many lives aboard the bombarded battleship USS Oklahoma.
“We will never forget the bravery not only by Welch but by the thousands of other Americans like him on that day,” Donovan said.
In observance of Pearl Harbor Day, Veterans Council Vice President Al Beck Sr., an Army vet of the Vietnam War, led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and President Dave Ricci, a Marine Corps Vietnam vet, and O’Brien laid a wreath.
The ceremony was attended by state Reps. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Treneé McGee, D-West Haven; City Clerk Patricia C. Horvath; city Tax Collector Dorothy Chambrelli; city Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo; and Treasurer John Carew and Secretary Herbert Hill of the First Fire Taxation District’s Board of Fire Commissioners.
The half-hour program included the national anthem sung by Ana Garcia, opening and closing prayers given by Vertical Church Pastor Randal Alquist, and taps played by retired West Shore fire Lt. Kevin McKeon.
The Veterans Museum & Learning Center sits just off Sawmill Road, opposite the West Haven train station.
The 9,000-square-foot museum, a living history of America at war, shows collections from the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the Connecticut Army National Guard and the New Haven Grays, a protective force formed after the War of 1812.
It also displays relics from each conflict since the U.S. fought for independence, allowing visitors to walk a timeline around the camouflage-clad warehouse.