BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH)– Veterans groups around the country marked the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Bristol American Legion began its ceremony with a solemn ringing of a lone bell. The room was full of people remembering the attack, and some remember it like it was yesterday.
Anthony Sileo was a teenager, doing what teenagers do. He was with some friends, driving around in a convertible.
“We were out looking for girls,” Sileo remembered. “We stopped at a gas station and the radio was on. That’s when we heard it.”
First came the news reports, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous speech.
“And he spoke about Pearl Harbor and the day that will live in infamy, and my friend says, ‘Well, there you go,'” remembered Louis McQuarrie. He did go, too. First the friend, and then McQuarrie himself. He went all the way to Germany. An infantryman, he fought in the famous Battle of the Bulge.
“Their tanks were the best. Their equipment was the best,” said McQuarrie. “They just had the wrong people against them, that’s all.”
Really, they were the right people. People who tried to enlist right after Pearl Harbor.
“I was too young,” Sileo said. “I tried to. I tried to, yes.” So he enlisted the following year.
Joe Caminiti enlisted, as well. He joined the Marines, and fought his way across the Pacific, including the horrible battle of Iwo Jima.
“You didn’t want to see it,” Caminiti said. “I was glad to get off of there. I was there for 30 days on that island.”
He got a look in his eyes when talking about Iwo Jima that spoke volumes about the terrible things he witnessed as he fought to save the world from fascism. It took the attack 75 years ago today to bring the United States into that fight.
“We heard the war started and we said 2,3 months it will be all over with, but it took 4 years.” Caminiti said. “And a lot of sacrifices.”
Until this year, that ceremonial bell had been rung at the start of the ceremony by Bristol’s sole Pearl Harbor survivor, Major Ed Riccio, but he passed away two weeks ago, hours before Thanksgiving. The bell itself is from the USS Kidd. The destroyer wasn’t at Pearl Harbor. It was built two years later and named after an admiral that was killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.