68 years ago today…

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…the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, thus finally sucking the United States into the conflagration that had been raging for two years in Europe and even longer in Asia.

Stories like this one from the AP remind us that the generation who fought and died to defeat Nazi-ism and Japan’s imperialism is very old and won’t be with us much longer. Ed Johann, the subject of the story, was a 17-year-old apprentice seaman on that fateful Sunday morning. He is going back for the first time since the attack because at age 86 he may not have many more chances:

For years, Johann said he wouldn’t go to the annual observance in Hawaii in honor of those killed in the attack. But now that he’s 86, it seemed liked a good idea.

“If I’m ever going to do anything like that I’d better do it now,” Johann said. His son, who lives on Maui, will accompany him.

Organizers expect between 40 and 50 survivors of the attack to come. Overall, some 2,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on a pier overlooking the spot where the Arizona sank.

The bodies of more than 1,000 sailors and Marines are still on board, and small drops of oil continue to rise from the submerged battleship.

Every year, unfortunately, there will be fewer and fewer. The survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are all in their 80s and 90s, and time is relentless.