NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Bill Chase, 92, of the Pearcy community in Garland County was in a Pearl Harbor military hospital being treated for measles when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
“You think, 'Well, why did that happen, why did this happen?'” he told reporters after attending a ceremony Wednesday in North Little Rock observing the 75th anniversary of the attack. “They could have been here, not me. You don’t forget things like that.”
Walter Smith, 98, of North Little Rock, another Pearl Harbor survivor, also attended the ceremony and said of that day, “You never forget that.”
The ceremony was held in view of North Little Rock’s Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum on the Arkansas River. The museum includes the U.S.S. Hoga, a tugboat that helped beach the U.S.S. Nevada so it would not block the harbor and fought fires on the U.S.S. Arizona for 72 hours after the Pearl Harbor attack.
The museum also includes the U.S.S. Razorback, a submarine that was present in Tokyo Bay during the formal surrender of Japan. Despite the name, the submarine had no previous connection to Arkansas.
“This is a moment of remembrance and reflection to what happened to individual lives 75 years ago and to what happened to our nation 75 years ago,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during the ceremony.
Hutchinson said 144 Arkansans served at Pearl Harbor, and 23 Arkansans were killed on the U.S.S. Arizona.
He said he did not know how many Arkansans enlisted in the military the day after the attack, but “that number has to be amazing.”
“It was not on that next day but sometime later during World War II that my father (John Hutchinson) also signed up in World War II and served the United States Navy in the Aleutian Islands,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said that before the attack, some were pushing for the U.S. to be isolationist and not get involved in the war, but after the attack “there was never a doubt again about whether the United States should enter the conflict. There was never a doubt as to whether it was our responsibility.”
North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith said, “When we say that we will never forget, we mean it. And with this memorial here with the Inland Maritime Museum, there is not a better place anywhere in the country for this to be.”