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Pearl Harbor ceremony planned aboard Cutter Taney at Inner Harbor

Harper Griswold was a teenager when the Japanese bombed the Pearl Harbor Naval Base on Dec. 7, 1941. Living in an isolated, mostly rural area in Connecticut, he knew little about the attack.

"I didn't comprehend what was happening," said Griswold, 89, a World War II veteran now living at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville. "A lot of people didn't know what Pearl Harbor was or where it was."

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The significance hit home for Griswold after he joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and, two years later, saw the destruction of war up close, stationed offshore from Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

"We could hear the machine gunfire and artillery," Griswold said of his job aboard a light cruiser directing ship convoys from England in and out of the area. "We watched the battleship Texas shelling the beach. It was mind-boggling. It's hard for me to comprehend everything I saw then."

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Decades later, he found more connections to the events of 73 years ago at Pearl Harbor, where about 2,400 sailors, soldiers and Marines died, propelling the United States into war. Each year, as a member of the St. Andrews Society of Baltimore, he would march with the color guard aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney at Baltimore's Inner Harbor in a ceremony to mark the Pearl Harbor anniversary.

That memorial ceremony will take place Sunday at noon at Pier 5 aboard the Taney, the last surviving vessel afloat to have witnessed the surprise Japanese attack. The free event is sponsored by Historic Ships in Baltimore and will honor World War II veterans, with veterans, active duty Coast Guard members and the Maryland National Guard participating.

The Taney, docked at 701 E. Pratt Street, was built in the mid-1930s as a peacetime law enforcement, search-and-rescue and maritime patrol ship, according to the Historic Ships museum. When aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, the Taney engaged the Japanese planes that flew over the city, the museum's website says.

Griswold, who has visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and read the names of those killed in the attack, said he believes it's important to remember the day, especially as fewer and fewer veterans of his generation remain. He knows of just six World War II D-Day veterans left at Charlestown.

"If people don't remember the sacrifices that were made for them and the reason we're able to live the life we live today, it's a sad situation," Griswold said. "I just hope people never forget."

The Historic Ships museum runs tours on a collection of military vessels within walking distance of each other, including the Taney as well as the Constellation, the USS Torsk submarine and the lightship Chesapeake.

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