Yarmouth Honors Pearl Harbor Day in Annual Ceremony at Smugglers Beach

Tim Dunn/CapeCod.com

SOUTH YARMOUTH – Nobody could have topped the historic “Infamy Speech” Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered to Congress 77 years ago, just a day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The nation’s 32nd President asked Congress to declare war on Japan with his most iconic quote, “December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy.”

That statement still rings true today as cities and towns across the country continue to honor the lives lost on the most devastating attack on U.S. soil up to that point.

On Cape Cod, the Town of Yarmouth honored Pearl Harbor Day with a special ceremony on Friday at Bass River Beach, also known as Smugglers Beach.

For 25 years, the American Legion Post 197 in Yarmouth has held an annual day of remembrance for those who lost their lives during the attack.

WWII Veteran Navy Petty Officer Walter Von Hone has been a staple of the event for all of those 25 years. Each year, he speaks about the tragedy of the amount of American lives in the attack, and how it led to his involvement in World War II.

“I was in high school on December 7th. I had just come back from teaching Sunday school and had heard the message over the radio. I knew at that time that eventually I’d be involved,” Von Hone said.

“As millions of others did, we had a purpose, and that was to defend our country to begin with, but it was also to help make the rest of the world a little bit safer for everybody else.”

Von Hone personifies the bravery and commitment to service that defined the Greatest Generation, enlisting himself in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17.

“I graduated from high school when I was 17 and enlisted in the Navy, served in the Pacific when I was 18, I was in Japan at 19 and in a hospital when I was 20. So, I had a series of events that not only made me, I believe, a much better person but a better American to go along with it, and I’ve tried to carry out those responsibilities for the rest of my life,” he said.

WWII Veteran Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Walter Von Hone speaks at the ceremony. Tim Dunn/CapeCod.com

American Legion Post 197 Commander Steve Sulkoski says that as long as he is in command, the day of remembrance in Yarmouth is going to continue for years to come.

“It’s a ceremony that you don’t see too often around the remembrance of Pearl Harbor and it’s a significant thing that I believe we should all remember, and we’re going to continue to do it as long as we’re around,” Sulkoski said.

A total of 2,335 American servicemen were killed in the attack with another 1,143 wounded.

About 20 survivors gathered at Pearl Harbor at a grassy site overlooking the water and the USS Arizona Memorial on Friday to pay tribute. The youngest of the veterans are in their mid-90s.

Dozens of those killed have been recently identified and reburied in cemeteries across the country after the military launched a new effort to analyze bones and DNA of hundreds long classified as “unknowns.”

While the attack was initially viewed as a success for the Japanese military, it turned out being its biggest blunder. The attack prompted the United States to enter World War II against the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany, and Italy, and effectively led to the downfall of all three nations.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center

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