WWII Vets Defy Virus Fears, Prepare To Mark 75th Anniversary of War's End

Combined Shape

Several dozen U.S. veterans, including some who were in Tokyo Bay as swarms of warplanes buzzed overhead and nations converged to end World War II, will gather on a battleship in Pearl Harbor next month to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

The 75th anniversary was meant to be a blockbuster event, and the veterans have been looking forward to it for years.

There were to be thousands of people taking part in the festivities in Hawaii, with parades marching through Waikiki, vintage warbirds flying overhead and gala dinners to honor the veterans.

Now, most in-person celebrations have been canceled due to the pandemic.

But about 200 people — mostly veterans, their families and government officials — will still commemorate the milestone on the USS Missouri, which hosted the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.

Report: Bidens Aggressively Dodged More Than $500,000 in Taxes Before Joe Demanded Americans Pay Their 'Fair Share'

“I’ve been told what I need to do in order to be responsible for myself but also toward others,” said WWII veteran Jerry Pedersen, who was aboard the USS Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender.

“I can’t hug the people that I’d like to hug.”

Pedersen, who will be coming from Sacramento, California, for the commemoration, turned 95 on Wednesday.

“No, I’m not concerned particularly,” he said.

Do you think this anniversary should be commemorated despite the pandemic?

Pedersen said he reflects on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s words “that we’ve got to pursue in peace what we won in war. And I made a decision that day that I wanted to be a peace worker. And my life has been that.”

Pedersen became a pastor after the war.

The veterans will board a flight reserved just for them from Oakland to Honolulu.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, said that ensuring the aging veterans know the risk of infection is important. “As long as people have the information … that’s all I can really hope for.”

But taking into account why these men want to attend the ceremony is also important, he said.

'The Free World Salutes You': WWII Army Medic Hailed for D-Day Heroism Dies at 100

“For somebody who may not live to see the next anniversary … the risk benefit calculus becomes a little bit different,” Chin-Hong said.

“I feel like sometimes in these settings, you think about risk and benefit in different ways.”

Once in Hawaii, the veterans will be isolated in hotels except when attending mostly outdoor events with health screenings and social distancing. The public is not invited, and workers will be continuously screened.

WWII veteran Art Albert, who had come to Hawaii for every commemoration, had promised loved ones that he would make it to the 75th anniversary. But he died in June.

“Somehow, he and the Missouri just connected. Every year as we neared Ford Island, his eyes would fill with tears as he saw what he called his ‘first home,'” Albert’s wife, Sherry, said by email, referring to the USS Missouri.

Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, which operates the battleship museum, was friends with Albert.

Of the veterans, he said that “despite the travel restrictions, despite the pandemic dangers, they are determined to be here.”

As of Wednesday, about 60 veterans, each with one companion, were set to attend.

Hawaii is expected to grant modified quarantine orders for those traveling for the anniversary, allowing them to attend the official ceremony and other events. Otherwise, people coming to the islands are required to quarantine for two weeks.

Gov. David Ige’s office said this week that the details are still under review but that the state will do everything possible to ensure the veterans are safely honored.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior U.S. officials plan to attend the events at Pearl Harbor.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , , , , ,
Combined Shape
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City