GORHAM—Middle school students got a different type of history lesson last week as the school commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that devastated the U.S. Navy Pacific fleet.
With students filling bleachers in the Gorham Middle School gym, Principal Robert Riley, a former history teacher, told about the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the “the day of infamy.”
The surprise attack launched the U.S. entrance into World War II. The day after the attack, Riley said, lines were “out the door” at military recruiting stations.
Several veterans attended the school’s Pearl Harbor observance and each was recognized by branch of military service. Riley thanked the veterans for their service and the students applauded each.
The school’s band and chorus performed the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.
Riley said 75 years ago Dec. 7 dawned as a peacful Sunday in Maine and America. He said the “Jack Benny Show” was popular on the radio. A movie playing at the time, Riley said, was “Sergeant York,” a World War I story.
But, the day’s quiet was interupted as radios blared reports of the attack at Pearl Harbor.
He showed clips of the enemy’s sudden destruction of U.S. ships in a bombing by Japanese forces. “It changed the world,” Riley said to students. “It changed your world.”
Wesley Cressey of Portland, 87, a retired Navy chief petty officer, recalled he was skiing that day when his mother beckoned him inside. “The whole family was listening to the radio,” Cressey, then age 12, recalled.
Riley’s students divided into small groups to meet, talk and ask Cressey and other veterans questions about their military duties. The students politely thanked veterans for serving as they filed past their ranks at end of the group meetings.
Gorham Middle School Principal Robert Riley last week tells his students the story of the attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii as the school observed Pearl Harbor Day. Veterans sit front and center during Riley’s presentation.
Gorham Middle School musicians play patriotic selections during an observance last week of Pearl Harbor Day.