Virginia War Memorial and Navy League hosts Pearl Harbor remembrance day ceremony

Wreaths were placed at the memorial in honor of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.
Wreaths were placed at the memorial in honor of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.(wwbt)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 7:09 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:51 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia War Memorial and the Richmond Council of the Navy League of the United States held a ceremony on Tuesday in honor of the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

More than 2,400 Americans lost their lives on Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, and of those 41 were natives of Virginia.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, each veteran’s name was read aloud, followed by the ringing of the bell. John Maxwell, the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, was the event’s keynote speaker and explained why it’s still important to recognize this day 80 years later.

He says the valor of those men and women who lost their lives need to always be recognized because, without it, 20 out of the 23 damaged at Pearl Harbor would not have been able to return including the Virginians who were ready to fight.

”George Webster, who witnessed an enemy aircraft destroy an anchor and then went on to fly 186 combat missions,” Maxwell said. “Pearl Harbor survivor Lynn Gardner, a single man in the U.S.S Read on Dec. 7. After surviving the attack he continued his service throughout the Pacific.”

While there were no Pearl Harbor survivors at Tuesday’s ceremony, those in attendance included 95-year-old Graham Nelms, who can remember where he was in Richmond when he learned of the attack.

“The Venus Theatre down on Hull Street, and they interrupted their movie to tell us Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Of course, I didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was,” Nelms said.

Nelms says he was a 15-year-old newspaper boy at the time and ran over to sell papers that day.

“I was selling the extra newspapers on Hull Street, I done made 58 cents that evening before it was all over,” Nelms said.

Like Nelms, soon everyone would know the name of the U.S Naval Base and what had happened. For Nelms, he said it was the attack and his brother, Walter, who was already serving, that inspired him to join the Navy in 1943, later passing through Pearl Harbor.

“My ship was an escort vessel. We would go and get the supply ships and bring them into the combat areas, so I was in and out of Peal Harbor several times,” Nelms said.

Nelms later served in the Korean war as well.

As the number of WWII veterans becomes far and in between, Nelms says he’ll continue to honor the sacrifice those men and women gave 80 years ago.

“I’m just glad to be a part of those fellas, and as long as I live, I’m going to come to participate as much as I can,” Nelms said.

If you would like to learn more about the Virginians who served in Pearl Harbor and World War II you can visit the museum at the Virginia War Memorial.

The Virginians at War documentary film Pearl Harbor will be still be shown at the Reynolds Theater.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to see the memorial’s newest exhibit, “Who They Were: Lives Worth Knowing” which includes a tribute to John Hildebrand, Jr., one of the sailors from Virginia who died during the Pearl Harbor attack.

For more information, call the Virginia War Memorial at 804.786.2060 or visit the website.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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