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

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

“It was time. Some of the requirements became a burden,” William Muehleib, president of the Pearl Harbour's Survivors Association, said after the ceremony on Wednesday. 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'd like to do at their age.

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. 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 but they will no longer have a formal, national organisation.

The group's announcement came as President Barack Obama hailed veterans of the bombing in a statement proclaiming Wednesday as “National Pearl Harbor 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. — AP

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