Snafu mars Pearl Harbor 70th anniversary ceremony

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2011 11:06 PM
Snafu mars Pearl Harbor 70th anniversary ceremony

A snafu marred the critical moment of silence Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor ceremony observing the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack.

Each year, the tradition calls for a moment of silence to start with the sounding of a ship's whistle. The quiet is then broken when military aircraft fly over the USS Arizona Memorial in missing-man formation.

The timing is carefully choreographed so that the moment of silence begins exactly at 7:55 a.m. _ the moment Japanese planes began bombing the harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But on Wednesday, emcee Leslie Wilcox was still speaking at 7:55 a.m., even as the Hawaii Air National Guard's F-22's roared overhead on schedule 42 seconds later.

The moment of silence was held a few minutes late, just before 8 a.m.

It was obvious to those who had attended the commemoration before that something was off, but some in the audience for the first time didn't notice.

Eileen Martinez, a National Park Service spokeswoman, said the ceremony started a few minutes late because twice as many people attended the ceremony as expected. That pushed back the program leading up to the moment of silence.

About 5,000 people were in the audience this year. Many people stood on the grass to watch, because all the seats were taken.

Martinez praised Wilcox, a former TV anchor and current president of PBS Hawaii, for the professional way she ran the ceremony.

Hawaii National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Anthony said the Guard has flown in missing-man formation at the annual Pearl Harbor ceremony for at least 30 years and has the timing of the flyover down to the second.

"Our tasking is to be over the target at 7:55 and 42 seconds, which we did," Anthony said. "We have this thing wired."

Anthony said the incident would be reviewed but he didn't know at what level or what degree of formality.

Martinez said the park service, which operates the visitor's center at the Arizona memorial, struggles with the timing issue every year. She said agency would review the script and reevaluate what's included in the period before the moment of silence.