Craig Gillette’s and Cheryl Calamia’s aunt was scheduled to visit the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, the day that will live in infamy.
“I have a copy of a letter that was sent to my aunt. She was supposed to spend the night with her girlfriends and chaperones on the (USS) Arizona that night, Dec. 7,” said Calamia, of Baton Rouge. “Thank goodness for my family it (the attack) didn’t happen the night before.”
Gillette, also of Baton Rouge, added that the group planned to watch a movie on the deck, then have dinner with the captain.
The early morning sneak attack scuttled those plans.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took the lives of 46 men from Louisiana, including 26 aboard the USS Arizona, among the 2,400 Americans killed in the attack. Four U.S. Navy battleships, including the Arizona, were sunk and four more damaged along with three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and a minelayer; 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.
The Baton Rouge siblings’ grandfather, Claude Gillette, a U.S. Navy admiral in charge of the Pearl Harbor shipyard, survived the attack. He and his family, including the siblings’ father, who was 10 at the time, were soon evacuated from the island.
Craig Gillette, 47, and Calamia, 55, marked the tragedy Friday by attending the Pearl Harbor Day ceremony at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum.
Gillette and Calamia were among the more than 70 visitors, veterans and servicemen at Friday’s memorial at 11:55 a.m., the exact local time the attack began on a Sunday morning 72 years ago.
Frank Masanz, 90, retired chief bosun’s mate, was the only World War II veteran who attended the ceremony at the Kidd.
After the ceremony, Masanz, of Baton Rouge, said he served in the European Theater and still has vivid memories of where he was and what he was doing when he learned of the attack.
“I was stationed at naval air station Jacksonville, aircraft salvage, when Pearl Harbor was hit,” Masanz said. “I was between the barracks and the mess hall. I had just finished feeding my face. Everybody got around the officers and wondering ‘When are they gonna call us?’ ”
Maury Drummond, executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum, said they have been hosting a Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony on the USS Kidd each year since 1983.
Tara High Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps members presented the colors, Kent Howard played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and Jerry D. Pugh from the Fleet Reserve Association read a short poem about the USS Arizona during the 20-minute ceremony.
Drummond also talked about Rear Adm. Issac C. Kidd Sr., the USS Kidd’s namesake, who was killed aboard the USS Arizona when a 1,500-pound bomb exploded in the forward magazine.
Vicky Magnuson, 63, of Central, who has been bringing children to events at the USS Kidd for about 20 years, said she loves bringing children to the retired destroyer because they get to see and touch things they normally would only see on television or the Internet.
“I absolutely think that this is the only way we can get our kids involved in history is for them to be a part of what has happened,” Magnuson said. “They get the history background and they go home and talk with their parents and grandparents.”
Drummond, 71, who has battled health issues the past few months, a staph infection in his knee and a heart attack soon after, said he was not going to miss Friday’s ceremony.
“There will never be an excuse big enough not to stand before a group of Americans and say ‘God Bless
America,’ ” he said.
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