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MEEKER I “Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy…” These words were spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In his declaration of war against Japan the next day, Roosevelt stated, “As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us…” The attack on Pearl Harbor, the president’s impassioned words and the war that followed will always be remembered, along with the character, determination, and valor of the heroes of Pearl Harbor and World War II. One of those heroes spent his school years in Meeker.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Archie Gregory was a naval crewman on the USS Arizona, stationed at Pearl Harbor. When Japanese forces attacked that Sunday morning in December, the Arizona suffered at least eight hits. The blast that destroyed the ship and sank her at her berth took the lives of 1,177 of the 1,400 on board at the time. More than half the casualties suffered by the entire fleet that day were aboard the Arizona. Archie Gregory was one of the few survivors.
Gregory is a cousin of Lucy Jane Howey of Meeker. Howey’s grandmother and Gregory’s grandmother were sisters. Gregory’s mother passed away when he was 8 years old and he moved to Meeker to live with his great-aunt, Lucy Crawford, and her husband Boyd on their Powell Park ranch. Gregory attended school in the Powell Park school and remained in Meeker until he was 18, joining the Navy a few years later.
He was on board the Arizona when it was bombed and, as so many of the survivors do, he recalls the events of the day with clarity.
“It exploded, I flew through the air, like a balloon,” landing in the water below, he said.
Another survivor stated, “I cannot remember things that happened yesterday but I can remember that day 70 years ago.”
This year marked the 70th anniversary of the attack. Gregory was among 24 fellow survivors from the Army, Army Air Corps, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard who were flown to Hawaii in early December. For many of them, it was the first time they had returned to the site in seven decades. Between Dec. 3-10, the veterans were invited to participate in an emotional anniversary and tour to honor the survivors and all the servicemen and women who sacrificed so much to protect the future of the United States.
The survivors are now in their 90s and had to have medical clearance for the trip. Gregory is 96, still in good health, and was delighted by the appreciation and excellent treatment the survivors received on their trip.
The trip began with the men gathering in Denver, where they received a military escort for their journey. Of the 24 survivors, four were from Colorado. Gregory was credited as being from Meeker, although he now lives with his daughter in California.
During the ceremonies in Hawaii, officers from different branches of the military greeted the survivors with honor and respect. One general was so moved he knelt before each man to say thank you, echoing the appreciation felt by thousands of Americans past and present.
The survivors were also honored as parade marshals, and crowds gathered to cheer for the men who won’t call themselves heroes, insisting “they were simply doing their jobs.”
Gregory was intent upon finding the name of one of his closest friends on the wall of remembrance. A serviceman present at the event helped him locate his friend’s name.
9News covered the event, interviewing the survivors and capturing their memories of Dec. 7, 1941, on film. One 9News reporter asked, “What will this country lose when it loses its last survivor, and what will this country lose when it loses its last veteran of World War II?”
Keeping the memories of that day alive is critical for historians, but even more important is remembering and honoring the character and virtue of what has been referred to as “the greatest generation” in our nation’s history.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke at the event, along with many others. Mabus told the survivors, “A famous quote often used to describe the Marines at Iwo Jima (stated) ‘Uncommon valor was a common virtue that day.’” He reminded the men that the quote described them just as much as their fellow soldiers.
As for Archie Gregory, his cousin Lucy Jane said, “He is in good health, he was out walking his dogs one day.” Of his trip to Pearl Harbor, she added, “He had a grand time and they were wonderful to him.”
For complete coverage of the 70th memorial of Pearl Harbor, including interviews with the survivors, visit http://ourfinalreturn. blog.com/2011/11/15/our-final-return-70th-anniversary-of-the-attack-on-pearl-harbor/ or follow the coverage on 9news.com beginning here: http://www.9news.com /news/story.aspx?storyid=234384&catid=222.