PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- Denver Gray remembers the carnage created by a bomb dropped at Hickam Air Field.
Albert Thomas still can feel the tremors of a Japanese plane dropping a bomb 600 yards from him at Schofield Barracks.
Douglas Phillips recalls watching the damaged USS Utah roll over into the waters at Pearl Harbor.
On the 59th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, each veteran has his own unique and sharp memory of what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed the U.S. Pacific fleet, plunging the nation into World War II.
Phillips recalls that "typical Sunday morning" when it was "a beautiful day like this." He was a crewman aboard the USS Ramsay when the bombs and torpedoes fell.
"We realized at that time, it wasn't a drill. We just stood in awe," said Phillips, 83, who was among the dozen survivors who attended a private ceremony Thursday aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.
A soft mist started falling during a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the exact time when the first bombs fell. The mist created a brilliant rainbow over Ford Island that lasted until the American flag was raised over the gleaming white USS Arizona Memorial during the Navy's ceremony.
"Why do we remember Pearl Harbor above and beyond all others?" asked Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. "In part, because we considered it an act of treachery.
"But did we think we defined the rules by which others act? Did we think we could never be hit at home? This was one of the great lessons of Pearl Harbor to Americans."
About 240 survivors, veterans, dignitaries, military officials and invited guests attended the private services on the memorial, now a tomb for nearly 1,000 of its crewmen.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. The Japanese sank or heavily damaged 21 ships, destroyed or damaged 323 aircraft, killed 2,388 people and wounded 1,178.
"When the bombs hit, it was so dense you could see nothing," said Gray, a retired insurance agent from Atlanta. "It seemed like eternity it was black. You could see nothing -- no sound, no noise. The dust finally settled down like a fog. When it cleared, the dead and the wounded were everywhere."
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