2:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: These are great men. Thank you for being with us. On this day, 76 years ago, more than 2,000 Americans were killed in a surprise attack on our homeland; hundreds more were injured. Battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers in our Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor suffered crippling losses. Everybody knows about it. America was at war. These folks know about it more than anybody.
As we remember that fateful day, it’s an incredible honor to be joined here with surviving veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor. And you’ll be here for the next seven years with me, okay? All right — seven years. After that, who knows? (Laughter.)
They’re heroes, and they’re living witnesses to American history. All American hearts are filled with gratitude for their service, their sacrifice, and their presence here today.
These veterans of World War II — very special men — are among the very first Americans to fight back in the Second World War. That’s really true when you think — you were the first ones to fight back. That’s something to be said. And we did okay. Once we got our act together, we did okay because we know how to win.
Outnumbered and outgunned, they did not hesitate. These six great American patriots answered the call of history: Mickey Ganitch, Jack Holder, Lawrence Parry, Robert Fernandez, George Blake, and Alexander Horanzy.
On that bright Sunday morning, Mickey Ganitch and his shipmates were getting ready to play a game of football against the crew of the USS Arizona for the fleet championship. Where’s Mickey? You never got that game, huh? You never got that —
MR. GANITCH: We had a war to fight.
THE PRESIDENT: You better believe it. (Laughter.) I know you won the war. I don’t know about football. You won the war.
MR. GANITCH: I’m ready to go, in case we play that game.
THE PRESIDENT: Look at you. You look beautiful. (Laughter.) Boy, oh boy. That’s pretty — can you do that one more time for me? I can’t believe it. Boy, that’s — I’m not playing him in football. (Laughter.)
When bombs began to fall, Mickey reported to his battle station in the crow’s nest of the USS Pennsylvania wearing his football uniform and his football helmet, which he threw off because he figured he didn’t need it.
That’s pretty, pretty great, huh? And you did a hell of a job. You saw something that few people have ever witnessed before, right?
MR. GANITCH: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: Amazing. Thanks, Mickey.
Jack Holder. Jack? Jack — hi, Jack. Jack Holder survived the enemy’s attack on Ford Island and went on to fly dozens of missions in the Battles of Midway and all along the Solomon Islands. Thank you, Jack, for being here. Appreciate it.
MR. HOLDER: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Very brave guy.
Lawrence Parry carried ammunition to the gunners. In thinking about the lessons of Pearl Harbor, Larry said he hopes “we can build up the military again.”
We are building up the military beyond what you ever thought. It got depleted. You know what happened over the last quite long period of time, but not with us.
Our budget is now going to be higher than ever before. We’re building it up again. And we’ll do it in your honor. Okay? We’re building it up. The best equipment in the world — we make it. And we’re supplying it in very big numbers. Thanks. Thanks. And we’re doing a job.
Robert Fernandez. Robert?
MR. FERNANDEZ: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Nice seeing you, Robert — served on the USS Curtiss that delivered return fire against the enemy. And he really gave it to them pretty good. They were very successful at the return fire. Good job. You look like you’re about 50 years old. Huh? You must have been very young. (Laughter.) You look great. What is the age?
MR. FERNANDEZ: Ninety-three now.
THE PRESIDENT: Ninety-three? Well, you look great.
George Blake stood watch on the Hawaiian shores, ready to repulse a feared invasion. George, George — thank you, George. Good. It was pretty wild scene. You’ll never forget that, right?
MR. BLAKE: I’ve never forgotten it.
THE PRESIDENT: Nope, you haven’t. And you fought hard.
Alexander Horanzy enlisted in the Army when he was only 17. Alex served throughout the war, but if you tried to call him a hero, he’d tell you he was just a “regular grunt in the service.” That’s what he told us — a “regular grunt.” I don’t think so. Thank you. Thank you.
MR. HORANZY: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I know it is. You’re not a regular anything. You’re a hero. You’re a hero. All of you are heroes.
In the weeks and months that took place after the surprise attack — and that was a vicious surprise attack — millions of American patriots, like these men, answered the same call and went to war. They fought, they bled, they sacrificed, and they triumphed. Many died to defend America against our enemies and to defeat the enemies of all humanity.
The legacy of that legendary American generation is carved deep into the stone monuments of history. Across the battlefields, oceans, and harrowing skies of Europe and the Pacific throughout the war, one great battle cry could be heard by American friends and foes alike: “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Have you heard that before, a couple of times? “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
MR. GANITCH: (Singing.)
Remember Pearl Harbor, as you go to meet the foe.
Just remember Pearl Harbor, as we did the Alamo.
We shall always remember how they died for liberty.
Just remember Pearl Harbor, and go on to victory.
THE PRESIDENT: What can I say? Wow, that was good. He’s a very shy person, too. (Laughter.) And a great football player.
Today, our entire nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor and the brave warriors who, on that day, stood tall and fought for America.
As I sign the proclamation making this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, I ask that God continue to bless and watch over each of you as very, very special people to our country. And God is watching over you, and we appreciate it. Thank you.
Our surviving World War II veterans are a precious national treasure. So I’m going to sign this proclamation, and we’re going to — I see there’s one pen, but we’re going to get plenty of other pens and other things for you guys so you remember this day.
And again, we’ll do it for another seven years, okay? Seven years. And you all have to promise you’re going to be around, right? (Laughter.) We’re going to be around. We’re going to be around and we’re going to be together, okay?
Thank you. Thank you very much. Let’s sign the proclamation. Thank you.
[The proclamation is signed.]
2:24 P.M. EST