Ceremonies around the country commemorate 75th anniversary of attack on Pearl Harbor

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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Surprise, fear, anger and pride.

That's what Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Downing recalls about the attack that plunged the U.S. into World War II.

Downing plans to return to Pearl Harbor Wednesday with other survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack that left more than 2,300 service people dead.

Thousands of servicemen and women and members of the public are also expected to attend the ceremony.

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Downing, a 103-year-old resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, served on the USS West Virginia, which lost 106 men.

He says he spent two hours fighting fires and checking the name tags of the dead so he could write their families personal notes about how they died.

President Barack Obama this morning marked the 75th anniversary by honoring those who gave their lives that day.

"Over 2,400 American patriots lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor -- military and civilian, men, women and children," Obama said in a statement. "Their sacrifice galvanized millions of GIs and Rosie the Riveters who answered the call to defend liberty at its moment of maximum peril. In the hours after the attack, President Roosevelt promised that 'the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.' Thanks to the heroism of a generation, we did."

The President noted that he would be making a historic visit to the USS Arizona Memorial later this month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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