Large contingent of WWII vets recall ‘Day of Infamy’

Last Friday was the 71st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the day the United States was brought into World War II on Dec. 7, 1941 and the day President Roosevelt declared was a day that will live in infamy.
Bristol, which has one of the highest number of veterans in the state, held its annual remembrance ceremony at the American Legion, and many speakers noted that it was one of the largest turnouts of World War II veterans, ever.
“I think this is the first Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies with so many World War II veterans present,” State Representative Frank Nicastro said, referring to the estimated 35 World War II veterans who attended last Friday morning.
Bristol Mayor Art Ward cited an email he had received recently about a book written by Admiral Chester Nimitz. The book was Nimitz’s reflections on the Pearl Harbor attacks, where he described three mistakes the Japanese made on Dec. 7, 1941.
Their first mistake was that they had attacked Pearl Harbor on a Sunday, when nine out of every 10 crewmen aboard those ships were on shore on leave, Ward recited.
“We would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800,” he read from the book. The second mistake was that the Japanese bombed the battleships, but never attacked the dry docks. “If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired,” he read. And finally, the third mistake: the Japanese didn’t attack the fuel that was stored on top of ground storage tanks, and one plane attack could have destroyed the entire fuel supply.
“That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America,” Ward read.
Other World War II veterans shared their stories of serving during the war, including 93-year-old Ed Riccio who was stationed at Pearl Harbor the morning of the attacks. He was in a barracks when he heard the bombing begin, and his barracks ended up getting hit. Riccio said three of 60 soldiers came out of that barracks alive.
“It always stays with you,” Riccio said of the experiences he lived through during that time.
Fran Mullins also served during World War II, and was drafted right after he graduated from high school. He shared his story about traveling from the United States to Europe aboard the Queen Mary with 20,000 other troops.
John Lasnier is also a World War II veteran, and he reminded his fellow veterans to remember that they are “among friends.”
“Recognize veterans, respect them, and consider it a privilege to know them,” Lasnier said last Friday morning, adding that the number of living World War II veterans is dwindling fast, but to “keep that friendship among us.”
Nicastro, who has been known to be an active advocate on the state level for veterans, said a new bill will be implemented in January that will allow for veterans to receive a new license with the American Flag on it. The Army Strong center at City Hall has applications for veterans to receive their new license, which will allow for veterans to be able to show they served for their country.
American Legion Post 2 Commander Chuck Woodin said the Legion is trying to hold the Pearl Harbor ceremony and POW/MIA ceremony at one of the middle schools next year, so younger generations can hear these stories first-hand.
Also, Andre Lessard spoke about the World War II time capsule that is buried in Memorial Boulevard. He said the capsule was buried in 1973 on Federal Hill, and later moved to the boulevard in 1985, will be opened in 2035.