On a day when rain fell, gathering to remember a day when flames fell
NORTH CANAAN — It was a cold night. Rain poured down on the small crowd gathered Dec. 7 at the Doughboy Monument on a hill in the center of town. The thought of moving the candlelight ceremony indoors was quickly dismissed by those huddled under umbrellas.
Seventy years ago, the day started out sunny and warm in Hawaii. The last of the ships, soldiers and fighter planes had arrived at Pearl Harbor. The beautiful Sunday morning would soon turn into a nightmare with the devastating attack by the Japanese. The United States would officially join World War II the next day.
It seemed a small sacrifice this week to stand in the cold rain to honor the 2,402 men and women who died that day. More than half that number were wounded.
During the ceremony, organized by members of Christ Church, veterans Brian Richardson and Stanley Ralph laid a wreath adorned with a yellow ribbon at the base of the monument.
Comments were welcomed, prompting one man to step up and speak in support of all veterans. He had, that day, only four more days left on active duty, and asked later that his name not be used, saying only that he will be residing in Falls Village.
“Bless a veteran,” he said. “If you see somebody in the area that served your country at one time or another, these folks deserve your attention and your respect.”
Richardson, a Marine veteran, was just old enough to be impacted by the emotions of the attack.
“I can remember my parents talking about it. It was very shocking for all of us,” he said. “The one thing I do remember my father saying was the one thing the Japanese never thought of is we are a free people and to try to take our freedom away from us was just too much. Dad said people came out of the mountains and out of the valleys, all types of people, to join the armed forces.”
Missing from the ceremony was Isadore Tadiello, an East Canaan native and resident who was expected to attend. He is the last surviving World War II resident here.
Tadiello was on the deck of the USS Curtiss, a plane tender that had arrived in Pearl Harbor the day before. The ship was waiting on the far side of Ford Island for its assigned dock to be available. Had another ship not been occupying the berth for unloading, the Curtiss would have been anchored just below battleship row, the main target of the Japanese.
Before the day was out, the Curtiss, with Tadiello manning an anti-aircraft gun, was hit by a bomb that penetrated several decks, and a kamikaze pilot, who crashed into one of its cranes. He still has a piece of the red parachute he recovered from the Japanese pilot’s body.
The Rev. Lance Beizer offered prayers, asking God to watch over all those who gave their lives in service to their country.
When prompted, several people spoke the names of loved ones on active duty. Richardson played taps to close the ceremony, but especially moving was the poem read by First Selectman Douglas Humes.
“Merry Christmas, My Friend” is an adaptation of “The Night Before Christmas.” It has many versions by many authors. The first verified published version was by Marine Lance Corporal James Schmidt, who wrote it while stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1991.
In it, Santa comes down the chimney of a ramshackle little home to find a serviceman “curled up on a poncho with a floor for a bed.”
It reads, in part, “His head was clean-shaven, his face weathered tan.
“I soon understood, this was more than a man.
“For I realize the families I saw that night, owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.”
Click here for another photo from the ceremony for Pearl Harbor.