On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Ralph Laedtke was working on a medical support vessel in Pearl Harbor when the sound of nearby torpedoing rumbled through his ship.
"I scrambled up the ladder and I saw bombs and ships exploding and smoke belching into the sky," said the former pharmacist's mate third class on the USS Solace.
Laedtke, 89, of Grayslake, and eight other Chicago-area Pearl Harbor survivors met Monday at Navy Pier to mark the 68th anniversary of the attack by Japanese forces that prompted the United States to join World War II.
The commemoration, which drew more than 300 people, included a bell-ringing ceremony to honor seven Chicagoans who died on the USS Arizona, one of several ships moored at the Hawaiian port that were sunk or severely damaged in the attack. Attendees included members of the Illinois Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and their families.
"You cannot forget the sacrifice that men and women have made, not just for Pearl Harbor Day, but for this country continually," said Mayor Richard Daley, alluding to the current U.S. conflicts in the Middle East.