NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by Japan, plunging the U.S. into World War II.
A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 wounded in the surprised attack on the U.S. fleet at Oahu, Hawaii.
"December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy," former President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared.
Nearly eight decades later, his somber remarks are still hard to reconcile, especially for those who lived through the bombardment by Japanese forces.
Survivors of the attack attended commemorative ceremonies Wednesday on the Battleship Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the U.S.S. Intrepid on Manhattan's West Side.
"We got off the ship by rope," Lauren Bruner, a survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona, said.
"Don't know how I made it, but I'm here," fellow survivor Donald Stratton said. "We sacrificed 1,177 men on that ship, and I was one of the lucky ones to get off."
A few hundred yards from the submerged U.S.S. Arizona, a group who served on the U.S.S. Utah gathered to remember their fallen brothers. The rusting wreckage remains where it went down after being hit by two Japanese torpedoes.
Gilbert Meyer, 93, is one of only six U.S.S. Utah crew members still living. He swam away from the sinking ship.
"I was sleeping down in the starboard side. The torpedoes hit the port," Meyer said.
The ceremony honored not only those killed at Pearl Harbor but also many survivors who in death chose to be with their shipmates and had their ashes placed in the wreckage.
The veterans attending the 75th anniversary were now mostly in the 90s, and some called it their last reunion.
Meanwhile in New York City, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the U.S. Intrepid on Manhattan's west side, where survivors and their families gathered to remember that fateful day.
"This day weighs heavy on the hearts of all Americans. While we can never repay those who gave their lives in defense of liberty, justice and democracy, we can honor their sacrifice by working together to ensure the ideals and freedoms we cherish always ring true," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday.
Clark Simmons was a chief officer in the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.
"All hell broke loose, we didn't know what was happening," Simmons told CBS2's Janelle Burrell. "We heard this noise and the noise was machine gun bullets and dive bombers taking a run at the ships that were anchored there in Pearl Harbor."
Bill Hallorin, of Long Island, didn't talk much about his days in the Navy or at Pearl Harbor -- but his wife Rose Marie knows the surprise attack left scars.
"They heard the sound and the smoke and everything and they are just begriming a day, beginning a morning and it's the real thing," she told WCBS 880's Sean Adams.
Hallorin said her husband was always ready, willing and able.
"He was a real patriot," she said. "He was carrying bullets, a rack of bullets -- he went below deck, I don't know how far down -- but he supplied the guns that the Phoenix was just shooting."
Donald Debrule, of Levittown, survived in silence, keeping his memories tucked away.
"He said 'I don't want to remember, I don't want to remember seeing pieces of people,'" wife Betty Debrule said. "I can't imagine how horrible that must have been for all of those young men."
"The motto of the Pearl Harbor survivors is 'Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America Alert,'" Debrule added. "And I think that's basically the reason that we all worry, that we're not alert enough. That this could happen again."
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared Dec. 7 "Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day" across the state.
"Let us not forget the lessons of that horrific day, especially the debt we owe to all our service members who have kept our homeland safe and who continue to protect our freedoms at home and abroad today," Christie said in a statement.
Later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor with President Barack Obama. However, a spokesperson for the prime minister made it clear he will pay respects to the dead, not apologize for what happened 75 years ago.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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