By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting large public gatherings, the city and the West Haven Veterans Council commemorated Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on Monday with a virtual ceremony now airing on the city’s YouTube channel.
Rossi delivered poignant remarks honoring the American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice 79 years ago during Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Watch the 19-minute video on West Haven YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5cM1trmHe999FXNJ56X_Jg.
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 an estimated 2,335 service members and 68 civilians.
“This event would launch the neutral United States into action during World War II to protect the democratic freedoms enjoyed by Americans, our Allies and many others around the world,” said Rossi, speaking from a World War II exhibit in the West Haven Veterans Museum at 30 Hood Terrace.
“The men and women who lived during this tumultuous time would become known as the greatest generation,” said Rossi, flanked by a wingtip from a Japanese Zero fighter that was shot down by a Bridgeport anti-aircraft unit. “If we do not take the time to remember (Pearl Harbor), we risk a sense of disconnection that dishonors the memory of those who died.”
The solemn service also featured remarks by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Veterans Council President Dave Ricci. 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. Capt. William S. Johnson IV, joined by members of the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard, tolled the 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.
In her remarks, Rossi noted that Floyd Welch, Connecticut’s last known Pearl Harbor survivor, died Aug. 17 at age 99. Welch, of East Lyme, served aboard the battleship USS Maryland and helped save many lives aboard the bombarded battleship USS Oklahoma.
“West Haven is fortunate to have created places, such as Bradley Point, the Soderman Memorial Flagpole and our Veterans Walk of Honor, where we can gather to remember our military and honor heroes like Floyd Welch,” Rossi said.
In observance of Pearl Harbor Day, West Haven Vietnam Veterans member William “Bill” Benson lowered the museum’s American flag to half-staff.
The tribute included the Pledge of Allegiance led by Veterans Council member Al Terr, the national anthem sung by West Haven High School senior Nora E. Mullins, and opening and closing prayers given by Vietnam Veterans chaplain Elliott Hastings.
It also included a wreath-laying by Rossi and taps played by former West Shore Fire Department Lt. Kevin McKeon.