The Day of Infamy remembered on the streets of Concord

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  • Jeanne Keith holds a World War II photo of her father (upper right) who was a assistant camera operator for the Army during the war.

  • Stephen Keith talks with Fletcher Reed, 4, as he inspects the World War II GMC Troop carrier at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Keiths have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith invites Fletcher Reed, 4, over to inspect the World War II trucks at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Keiths have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith talks with visitors as they inspect the World War II GMC Troop carrier at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Keiths have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith talks with Fletcher Reed, 4, as he inspects the World War II Ford Jeep at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Keiths have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Keiths have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith lets Fletcher Reed, 4, inspect the World War II Ford Jeep at the State House on Monday for the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Navy veteran Michael Murphy stands in front of the American flag that flies in the rear of a World War II Ford Jeep at the display for the commeration of the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the State House on Monday, December 7, 2020. Murphy is wearing the coat that was assigned to him in 1970 when he joined the Navy. Murphy served until 1978. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jeanne Keith dresses in World War II Red Cross uniform at the State House on Monday for the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her antique glasses fogged up from the steam created from her mask. Keith and her husband, Stephen have been bringing their World War II military vehicles to the plaza since 2009. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Divers will place the ashes of Lauren Bruner, a survivor from the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, in the wreckage of his ship during a ceremony this weekend. Bruner died earlier in 2019 at the age of 98. (AP Photo, File)

  • FILE - In this May 24, 1943 file photo, the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma is lifted out of the water at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. The military says it has identified 100 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma capsized during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor 76 years ago. The milestone comes two years after the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency dug up nearly 400 sets of remains from a Hawaii to identify the men who have been classified as missing since the war. (AP Photo, File)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 1941 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors on a small boat rescue a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Saturday marks the 72nd anniversary of the attack that brought the United States into World War II. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, File) Uncredited

  • ABOVE: The destroyer U.S.S. Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. BELOW: From left, the U.S.S. West Virginia, U.S.S. Tennessee and U.S.S. Arizona are hit from the air AP

  • Three U.S. battleships are hit from the air during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Japan's bombing of U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor brings the U.S. into World War II. From left are: USS West Virginia, severely damaged; USS Tennessee, damaged; and USS Arizona, sunk. (AP Photo)

Monitor columnist
Published: 12/7/2020 5:11:36 PM

Each year on Dec. 7, Stephen and Jeanne Keith of Pembroke stand at the State House Plaza and offer informal classes on the Day of Infamy.

For years they’ve set up an exhibit, a tribute to the 2,400 people killed at Pearl Harbor, using their very own World War II-era vehicles, a jeep and a truck, to bring the olive-green colors of the war to life.

They set up shop again on Monday, giving kids the chance to learn that the Japanese attack on our Pacific Fleet pushed the United States into World War II, and soon we were at war with Germany as well.

Many are startled when they hear that the U.S.S. Arizona – sunk during the surprise attack and forever known as the tragic symbol from this day – continues to release nine quarts of oil per day at the tribute site nearly 80 years later, coating the surface of the blue Hawaiian water with what has fittingly become known as the “Black Tears.”

“We’ve seen about 30 people so far here today,” Stephen Keith said on an overcast, windy day. “There are some veterans and some parents, men and women, and some little kids. The veterans thank us for doing what we do and keeping history alive. We try to honor all of our veterans, whether they fought or not. They’re all special to us.”

As usual, he was supercharged for this year’s display, ready to reveal little-known facts from the ambush that changed the course of world history.

For example, he mentioned the Niihau Incident, which occurred in the days after the attack, when a Japanese pilot crashed on the Hawaiian island and received comfort from the residents of Japanese descent, still unaware that war had erupted.

Soon after, Japanese Americans were prejudged, rounded up and held indefinitely.

“It marked the first time a Japanese American on American soil had a chance to choose sides and chose the wrong side,” Keith said. “That’s what caused and was the start of the internment camps.”

Keith also cited the U.S.S. Enterprise, an aircraft carrier that, through sheer luck, hit rough seas after delivering planes to Wake Island, forcing the ship to slow its engines and delaying its arrival to Pearl on the Day of Infamy.

“They were going to make Pearl on (Dec. 6) at night,” Keith said. “They got in the next afternoon, hours after the attack. The U.S.S. Enterprise would have been sunk, and it was involved in 20 of 22 major battles in the Pacific. If we had lost it, it would have been catastrophic and might have changed World War II dramatically.”

Keialso analyses the politics and context of the day, saying, “The more you learn about history, the more you question some things. For instance, they had so many warnings about Pearl Harbor and there were things they could have put together and they did not.”

He’s there, along with Jeanne, with stories, known and unknown, each Dec. 7. He loved watching the little boy sit in the driver’s seat of his 1942 Ford Army Jeep during his latest presentation.

At home the night before, Keith carefully drove the Jeep up narrow planks and into the back of his 10-wheel 1943 GMC Army troop carrier.

The truck, with its three stick shifts on the floor and a .50-caliber machine gun on top, rolled in around 7:30 Monday morning. Its bullets, six inches long, are strung together in the couple’s barn, which is rich in World War II items.

Keith loves the fact that the kid who looks after the couple’s chickens was eager to finish the book Keith had given him recently. It told the story of the U.S.S. Enterprise, nicknamed the Big-E.

“Most people are surprised when they hear about it,” Keith said. “The father sent me a picture of his son sleeping at night trying to read and finish the book. I’ll let him digest that one and then he can move on to the next one.”




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