At 93 years old, John McLeod knows there aren’t many World War II veterans like him left, and he felt like he was the only one listening Wednesday to the speakers at the Pearl Harbor commemoration in Portland.

The 15-minute ceremony was held at Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade, the home of the mast from the USS Portland, a heavy cruiser that participated in numerous battles during the war and was there when the Japanese surrendered at Turk in the Caroline Islands on Sept. 2, 1945.

Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor Navy base in Hawaii that drew the United States into the war. McLeod, a Portland native who served in the Marines and participated in the battle of Okinawa in April 1945, said he was working for the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps in Bar Harbor as a hospital orderly when he and his co-workers heard the news about Pearl Harbor.

“We thought, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening to us?’ ” said McLeod, wearing his navy-blue “World War II veteran” baseball cap. “None of us even knew where Pearl Harbor was.”

The Japanese attack destroyed or damaged eight battleships, more than 300 airplanes and killed more than 2,300. Within days, the U.S. had declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy. Shipyards in South Portland and Bath built “Liberty” transport ships at a furious pace for the Navy before the attack and during the war.

McLeod enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and was assigned to protect one of the “Navajo Code Talkers,” a group of 400 Navajos who developed a secret code based on the Navajo language that was used for war communications. McLeod would sometimes help deliver the coded messages to commanding officers.

Okinawa was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, with an estimated 82,000 killed in action on both sides. McLeod said he served far behind the front lines, and his landing crew didn’t face opposition.

“I didn’t really see any action,” McLeod said. “A mortar shell landed near me one time and I got a concussion.”

McLeod said he remembers hearing bombs exploding as he was approaching Okinawa and marveling at seeing hundreds of ships around the island.

McLeod, who rose to the rank of corporal, said he shipped out to the Pacific theater in 1944. He served in the Solomon Islands, Pavuvu island and Guadalcanal as part of support operations prior to Okinawa.

McLeod served in China after the war before being shipped home in 1946.

McLeod said it’s important to remember the beginnings of World War II, even as people were alive at the time or fought in the war grow old and die.

Wednesday’s Pearl Harbor ceremony, hosted by AMVETS Post 25, included brief remarks, a gun salute and the playing of taps.

About 620,000 World War II veterans were alive in 2016, out of the 16 million who served in it, according to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“Years ago, we used to get a big crowd here (for Pearl Harbor Day), but now it’s not so big,” McLeod said. “We’re getting old.”

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