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Pearl Harbor veteran recalls day of attack

Dec. 7 was called a date that would live in infamy, and 71 years later its chilling memory remains etched in the minds of local survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was a normal, warm day in Hawaii for Walter ­Maciejowski, stationed a few miles away at ­Schofield ­Barracks in Honolulu. The 20-year-old had made breakfast plans with fellow soldiers ­before going to sleep, but a few hours later, ­Japanese planes would soar over Pearl Harbor, spreading destruction.

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Awoken by the sound, he ran over to the balcony to see the rear field already ablaze.

“All I could do was watch,” Maciejowski, now 91, said in a telephone interview from his home in ­Everett. “I wasn’t even in my outfit. Troops went to the roof with machine guns and started attacking the planes. I wouldn’t dare to go out.”

More than 2,400 Americans died, and hundreds more were wounded in the surprise attack, which catapulted the United States into World War II.

In Massachusetts, ­Maciejowski is one of the few alive who witnessed the attack. He believes that there are at least 20 veterans left in the state and possibly more than 2,300 left ­nationally.

The Boston National Historical Park will host a memorial service on the bow of the USS Cassin Young, a World War II destroyer in the Charlestown Navy Yard at 12:30 p.m. Friday, said Sean ­Hennessey, spokesman for the National Park Service.

In attendance will be Francis M. Connolly, 91, a Quincy Navy veteran who was on the deck of the USS St. Louis during the attack and witnessed the explosion aboard the USS Arizona that instantly killed most of its crew.

In Westfield, where Pearl Harbor survivor Robert A. Greenleaf, 90, resides, a small ceremony will be held by the Westfield Veterans Council .

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at sarah.mattero@
globe.com
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