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Survivors remember Pearl Harbour

US veterans of Pearl Harbour have observed the 70th anniversary of the attack with a solemn ceremony at the site of the Japanese bombing, as an ageing and dwindling group of survivors announced it would disband at the end of the month.

"It was time. Some of the requirements became a burden," William Muehleib, president of the Pearl Harbors Survivors Association, said after the ceremony. He also cited poor health among the group's 2,700 members, adding that most of the survivors have realised there are other things they would like to do at their age.

The Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, killed 2,390 Americans and brought the United States into World War II.

Survivors will be able to attend future commemoration ceremonies on their own. About 3,000 people, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and military leaders, attended this year's anniversary at a site overlooking the sunken USS Arizona and the white memorial that straddles the battleship.

Mr Muehleib said there are an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 Pearl Harbour survivors. Local chapters of the group will function as long as they have members and survivors can gather socially, but they will no longer have a formal, national organisation in the US.

The group's announcement came as President Barack Obama hailed veterans of the bombing in a statement proclaiming Wednesday to be National Pearl Harbour Remembrance Day.

"Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valour fortified all who served during World War II. As a nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honour all who have sacrificed for our freedoms," he said.

Also this week, five ash scattering and interment ceremonies are being held for five survivors whose cremated remains are returning to Pearl Harbour after their deaths.

USS Utah survivor Gilbert Meyer said he comes back each year to see his shipmates entombed in the battleship which rests not far from where it sank.

Meyer, 88, recalled his ship rolling over after being hit by a torpedo and seeing Japanese planes dropping bombs. When the planes began showing machine gun fire, he knew it was time to move. "That really got my attention, so I got in the water and swam ashore," he said.

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