For veterans of all of America’s wars and military actions, as well as for those who remember and honor them down through the generations and to the present moment, November 11th has been a time of national remembrance. Flags bloom on our nation’s “Main Streets” and on cemetery graves, red poppies appear on lapels and pockets, and aging veterans march in small-town parades across the land. For a few hours at least, Americans take time out – hopefully – to consider the high cost of freedom, and the contributions of those who have served. The generosity of that service is writ large in the fact that more than 125,000 of our known war dead lie in foreign lands, while the names of tens of thousands of others appear only on lists titled “missing in action” or under markers labeled “Unknown”.
On December 7th, 1941, Glen Lane was a 23-year-old sailor serving aboard the battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii at the time of the Japanese surprise attack. After being blown into the sea by the bomb which struck and sank that iconic warship, Petty Officer Lane managed to swim to the sister ship USS Nevada (BB-36), where minutes later he narrowly survived as well the explosion which crippled that vessel. Lane went on to serve in the U.S. Navy for 30 years, retiring finally in 1969 as a Command Master Chief. During all those years, he never stopped thinking about the 1177 fellow crewmembers who died, most of whom lay entombed in the Arizona on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor.
As a civilian, Glen Lane took every opportunity to meet with school children and community members, where his real-life stories engendered a greater love of country and a better understanding of and appreciation for the service of military veterans. His affection for the men with whom he had served on the Arizona and those left behind was always clearly on display. After the Pearl Harbor site of the wreck became a National Shrine in 1962, and since then part of the official WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Lane became involved with the staff in developing an official history and museum on site, in the process becoming a good friend to those who have served in the management of the National Park Service exhibit. He devoted the later years of his life making sure that future generations would not forget an important part of our National memory.
Visitors to the USS Arizona monument will see a large panel on which the names of the 1177 officers and men who perished aboard the warship on December 7th are engraved,(one half of all people killed in the Japanese attack), but there is another graven panel about which I write today. What might not be well known is the provision that allows surviving veterans of the USS Arizona to be interred aboard her if they wish. In each case, a water-tight urn bearing the cremated remains of that veteran is brought to the memorial on a Navy launch along with attending family members for a private ceremony, complete with Navy honor guard, a 21-gun salute, taps and folded flag presentation. A Navy diver then takes the urn to an underwater crevice in one of the ship’s casements, where it is carefully lowered into the memorial.
Recently, one of those services played out as the late Command Master Chief Glen Lane, USN(Ret) was reunited with his shipmates aboard USS Nevada (BB-39), 71 years after the day he was blown from her deck. His name is the 36th on that second honor list, and at the age of 93 at his death, he could be one of the last.
The USS Arizona burns after being struck by Japanese bombs on Dec. 7, 1941, one of seven U.S. battleships to be sunk or damaged that day. Most of her crew was trapped aboard.
U.S. Navy Archives
Drops of leaking oil rising to the surface can still be seen by visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial today. An aerial photo shows the Memorial with the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) anchored nearby.
U.S. Navy Photo