PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Ike Sutton did not need it to be Dec. 7 to remember Pearl Harbor.
For Sutton, who was strafed by bullets in the surprise 1941 attack by the Japanese, every day is Pearl Harbor.
"We saw these planes, then these things that looked like torpedoes heading for Battleship Row," said Sutton, who was on a small boat at the time. "I just went out into the middle of the harbor and started pulling people out of the water."
Sutton, 83, told his story Sunday during ceremonies marking the 56th anniversary of the attack.
Sutton was one of a handful of Pearl Harbor survivors attending the invitation-only remembrance aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. A total of 1,177 crewmen assigned to the Arizona died in the attack, including 945 entombed in the ship.
"Listen. In this place you can hear the voices of the dead," said Adm. Archie Clemins, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. "Look. In this place you can see them, the tears of the dead. This is the spirit of the men of the USS Arizona."
Participants marked a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the time the attack began. When it was over about three hours later, 2,403 people were dead, 21 ships were sunk, 185 planes were destroyed and a nation was plunged headlong into World War II.
From that dark day, the true spirit of the American people and their military was shown, Clemins said.
"The men of the Arizona did not die in vain," he said. "They will not fade into the mist of time. They came to the ship as boys, and they died as men in a bond of bravery."
After a missing-man F-15 flyover, representatives of the military branches and veterans organizations placed wreaths before the ceremony ended with echo taps and a 21-gun salute.
"There is no more humbling experience than to stand in such a place," said Rear Adm. William Sutton, commander of Naval Base Pearl Harbor. "So many great heroes . . . we owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be paid back."
No one who was on board the Arizona at the time of the attack was at the ceremony. Fewer than one dozen men designated as Pearl Harbor survivors were on hand.
Keith Hill, 75, was standing watch on the West Virginia when he saw squadrons of Japanese planes swooping down.
"Bombs were falling. I ran to my battle station," Hill said. "One torpedo after another. You could just feel the ship shudder. Guys were laying all over the deck. . . . I jumped into the water and made it to a small whale boat that was just pulling away."
Richard Fiske was also on board the West Virginia. In the years since the attack, he has become close friends with five of the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor.
The 75-year-old Fiske lays roses every month at the USS Arizona Memorial on behalf of one of the Japanese fliers, who views the gesture as a personal act of sorrow for his role in the attack.