Pearl Harbor Day to be marked quietly by survivor of attack

There may be no official ceremonies in Mobile today to mark the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but at least one survivor already has his eyes on big events expected in 2011. Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Howard Bakeman, 92, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, was stationed in Pearl Harbor when Japanese bombers attacked by air on December 7, 1941.

“Tomorrow is going to be a routine day,” Bakeman said Monday. “I am not disappointed. I know what it's. I have got a Pearl Harbor survivor badge. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Bakeman said he was in the cafeteria at “0800 hours” when a cook came in and warned they were being fired on. He and others initially thought that the approaching planes were a bomber squad arriving from California.

At 11 a.m. today on the USS Alabama, a brief announcement of the anniversary will be made and a “moment of remembrance” will be observed, said Bill Tunnell, executive director of Battleship Memorial Park.

“Next year,” Tunnell said, for the 70th anniversary, “we'll have a full ceremony honoring the surviving Alabama members. Most of the Pearl Harbor survivors are older than 85 and not all mobile.”

Bakeman, however, still drives his Cadillac to places such as the post office and to eat at a favorite Chinese restaurant on Airport Boulevard.

A Boston native and Mobile resident for 40 years, his sedan features United States. Army flag decal, as well as others identifying him as a war veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor. Bakeman said that he attends every military funeral he can, regardless of whether he knows the deceased or the family. “There Is not a lot you can do,” he said. “You do what’s proper. I figure I owe it to these guys.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor caused more than 2,300 American military deaths, according to the National Park Service. Of those, 1,177 were crewmembers on the USS Arizona.

The Sunday morning attack plunged the US into World War II.

Bakeman said that strangers still stop him to offer appreciation for his military service:

“They embarrass me sometimes. When you sign (up) there’s no fine print or guarantee you're not going to get into a firefight. When you come from a military family, maybe you've a different concept. I had a mission to accomplish.”


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