Pearl Harbor survivors, fallen honored in Mayport ceremony

Surviving sailor recalls 'day in infamy,' remembers shipmates

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter , Francine Frazier - Senior web editor

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. - A survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack was the honored guest Thursday at a moving ceremony on board the USS Milwaukee at Naval Station Mayport.

Robert Beaudreau, 98, survived the surprise attack by Japanese forces on the U.S. naval base 76 years ago.

“Franklin Roosevelt said it better than I can. It was a day in infamy,” Beaudreau said.

Beaudreau was aboard the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship was struck by eight torpedoes from Japanese planes and sank.

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Many of Beaudreau’s shipmates were killed.

“The dense, black, sooty smoke and the deafening, thunderous noise from the ships and from the guns -- it was the day that I can never, ever forget,” Beaudreau said at Thursday's ceremony, where he sat in the front row, remembering his comrades who did not survive to sit beside him.

During the ceremony, Beaudreau and others tossed flowers and a wreath into the water, to honor those who died. 

The weather caused the ceremony to be moved inside the USS Milwaukee, but a little bit of rain couldn’t dampen the honor and respect that was paid to those who gave all on a day the nation will never forget. 

A 21-gun salute also honored the 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others injured.

“I was thinking about all of my friends that passed on. I was honoring them,” Beaudreau said. “It’s saddening because of all the people that passed on from the ships. The West Virginia was a proud ship.”

So proud, Beaudreau said, that she was raised and returned to service to fight in the war.

“The armistice was signed in Tokyo Bay, (where) the West Virginia was proud to be,” Beaudreau said.

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