By LYFORD M. MOORE
All eyes will be on the Camden Waterfront this week as South Jersey commemorates the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor from the battle-scarred decks of the USS New Jersey.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will draw a parallel between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the events of Sept. 11. At 6 p.m. Friday, Pearl Harbor Day, the Home Port Alliance will throw a switch and portions of the aging warship will light up. The lighting will represent Phase 1 of a $1 million illumination project.
Elsewhere on Friday, St. Demetrios Church in North Wildwood will host a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony, and the N.J. State Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will gather at a memorial to Pearl Harbor survivors at the Richard Stockton rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. The statewide organization has 168 members, 33 of them living in South Jersey.
Age has not dulled their memories.
Nearly 3,600 Americans were killed or wounded and 19 ships damaged or sunk when 353 Japanese aircraft struck the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. There had been no formal declaration of war.
"I'm going to talk about the obvious parallels between Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11, the loss of life and infliction of pain," he said. "But I'll also address an inspiring parallel. Just as Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of the end for Nazism, so will Sept. 11 mark the beginning of the end for terrorism.
"I truly believe there would not have been strong sentiment against invading Europe to try to conquer Hitler if the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor. It became impossible to think that after Pearl Harbor. Tragically, Sept. 11 gave us the resonance and power to go ahead, too."
In addition to Andrews, the Pearl Harbor Day program will feature a short address by Domenic Gentile of Pine Hill, a Pearl Harbor survivor; a 21-gun salute; and closing remarks in recognition of "today's heroes" - the police, fire and emergency responders community.
On Friday, the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit group that runs the battleship museum, will stage its first " light the ship" ceremony. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and end about an hour later. Friday marks the 59th anniversary of the USS New Jersey's launching.
Alliance spokesman Jack Shaw says visitors are encouraged to bring presents. The gifts will be given to several Marines for their Toys for Tots program.
Big J will be open to the public that day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission will be $10 for adults, and $7 for veterans with identification, seniors 62 and older and children ages 6 to 12.
Said Shaw: "We'll be illuminating her superstructure. ... Right now, in the evening, you can't even tell she's there."