Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal Remembers Pearl Harbor

Dallas County resident was serving on Navy ship stationed in Hawaii

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Seventy years may be an entire lifetime for some, but it marks a significant anniversary for one of the grand marshals for the Dallas Veterans Day Parade.

    James R. Kanaman, 92, was 22 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, a date President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would "live in infamy."

    Kanaman was a Navy machinist mate chief serving on the USS Tracy stationed at Pearl Harbor.

    The Imperial Japanese Navy's surprise attack on the Hawaiian naval base was meant to neutralize the U.S. Pacific fleet, but it instead ushered the United States in World War II.

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    Two waves totaling 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes swooped down over Pearl early that day, a Sunday.

    "It was about 8 o'clock when they started hitting us," Kanaman said. "There's planes flying over. Of course, you could see the red ball (the Japanese flag). We knew immediately what it was."

    The attack killed 2,402 Americans that day. Another 1,247 were wounded.

    "We knocked the lock off of the armory land got a .30 caliber machine gun, and we fired onto a Japanese airplane," Kanaman said of his effort to fight off the attackers. "That plane later landed over at the hospital, so we figured we helped shoot down a plane."

    As one of two grand marshals for the Veterans Day Parade, Kanaman rode in style near the front of the procession as it snaked its way through Dallas' streets.

    But for a long time, he would not have had that opportunity.

    "For 50 years, Dallas didn't have a Veterans Day Parade," retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Solemene said. "Now we have something like 25,000 to 30,000 spectators."

    The parade is a point of pride with Solemene who, along with other members of the parade committee, helped bring it back more than a decade ago. It has now grown to be the nation's largest of its kind.

    "Veterans Day is a day of remembering and saying 'thank you' to our veterans," Solemene said. "That's why we do it."

    The theme for the 2011 parade is "Remembering Pearl Harbor."

    "We used to have a cadre of Pearl Harbor survivors in the parade every year," Solemene said. "And,God bless them, every year it gets smaller and smaller. There are many in rest homes. Some of them, God bless them, have passed away. And so, therefore, this was the year [to recognize them]."

    But Kanaman said he doesn't take the praise in stride.

    "I don't know whether they call it a reverence or a great respect, but to me the heroes and the outstanding people are the boys that died," he said. "They're the ones that need the recognition. I'm an old -- hell, I've enjoyed life, but these people haven't. I'll tell you, I've never thought of myself as a hero. Don't misunderstand me. I'm just your average citizen that managed to survive."