The bombs came quickly and without warning on Dec. 7, 1941.
And now, 72 years later, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor still lingers at the forefront in the minds of the men who lived through the "Day of Infamy."
"How do you describe terror," 91-year-old survivor Jack Cornelison asked on Saturday, the anniversary of the attack.
Cornelison folded his arms across his chest, paused, then tilted his head up and to the right as his thoughts carried him back to that day.
At the tender age of 19, Cornelison, then a Petty Officer 2nd Class, had roughly a year under his belt since enlisting in the navy.
The year was 1941 and he was stationed at the U.S. naval base of Pearl Harbor. That's when, Cornelison said, his life changed forever.
On Saturday, Vickey Cornelison-Grant steadied her father by the arm during a service aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown recognizing the lives lost during the attack.
Cornelison's wrinkled fingers clung to a pine wreath as he walked to the edge of the aircraft carrier. He tossed the ornament into the water in honor of the 25 South Carolina men who were killed.
Cornelison was one of four Pearl Harbor survivors who attended Saturday's service at Patriots Point. The others included 91-year-old Buck Morris, 92-year-old Tom Ryan, and 96-year-old Ed Crews.
"We didn't know what the hell was going on," Crews said, recalling the moment the bombs first began to drop. Crews, an Army machine gunner at the time, said he recognized the attack for what it was as fire and smoke began to surround him.
Each survivor addressed the gathered crowd, sharing memories from World War II and thanking the group for recognizing the sacrifices made.
A bell sounded as the 25 South Carolina men's names were read.
Roughly 200 people attended the ceremony.
Joint Base Charleston's deputy commander Capt. Timothy Sparks was a featured speaker at the event.
"On this anniversary most (Pearl Harbor veterans) will recall their heroism, their resolve and perseverance toward achieving what President Roosevelt foretold to be their inevitable triumph," Sparks said. "We honor our veterans who still bear the scars of that war. ... We will never forget."
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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