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‘No greater example of the resolve of our nation than the US Seabees’

Seabees bow their heads in prayer during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Wednesday at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport.
Seabees bow their heads in prayer during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Wednesday at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport. amccoy@sunherald.com

There’s a certain reverence that’s associated with Dec.7, which was the day the Japanese attacked American soil at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941.

And that exalted feeling was present on Wednesday during a ceremony at the Naval Construction Battalion Center to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We’ve heard that this was ‘A day that will live in infamy,’ as 2,403 people died,” said Capt. Paul Odenthal, commander of Naval Construction Group 2. “It was a catastrophe, but it was also an awakening for us as a country and a proof of our resolve and who we are as a nation.”

The naval station at Pearl Harbor was attacked around 6 a.m. Two battleships were destroyed, two were sunk but eventually recovered and three damaged. Eleven other ships were damaged and more than 180 aircraft destroyed. More than 2,400 people died and 1,100 were injured.

Odenthal said that although the attack was a tragedy, something positive did happen after the attack.

“There’s no greater example of the resolve of our nation than the U.S. Seabees,” he said. “In March, we will celebrate our 75th birthday, but truly, our birthday was Pearl Harbor — this is the event that drove us into existence.

He said the Seabees went from not existing in December 1941 to being activated in March 1942.

“When you think about the size of the force of the first battalion of 290, we peaked during the war with about 325,000 — that’s larger than the U.S. Navy is today by a large margin,” Odenthal said.

Although Pearl Harbor Day is recognized every year, Odenthal said Wednesday’s commemoration was unusual.

“We don’t normally do things this large for Pearl Harbor Day, but we wanted to do something special for the 75th anniversary,” he said.

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