Pearl Harbor attack anniversary: Virginia flags flown at half-staff to commemorate

Joe Demler when he was freed at the end of World War II from a German prisoner-of-war camp. This photo was published in Life Magazine, 1945. Photo: Courtesy Time Magazine

The youngest survivors of Pearl Harbor are now the oldest veterans of World War II.

Joe Demler was dubbed 'the human skeleton' in a famous 1945 Life magazine photo, taken after he was freed from a German prisoner of war camp. He weighed only 70 pounds.

Demler visited the World War II Memorial in Washington today to honor his fellow veterans on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

"Everytime I come here, it means a little more," he says.

Demler remembers one man lying in a hospital bed next to him in German. The man was freed, but died before food could be brought to him, Demler says.

A retired postmaster from Wisconsin, Demler said doctors told him he wouldn't have lived another three days if he wasn't found then.

"I mean, I’ve had bad days like everybody else. High and lows...but I survived, ya know."

On this day, 71 years ago, Demler says, he was in a movie theater with his parents and had not yet heard what happened.

It was his birthday. Today he turns 87 years old.

Flags are being flown at half-staff on all local, state and federal buildings and grounds in Virginia and Maryland to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese air forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

More than 2,400 American military personnel were killed, including 44 Virginians. More than 1,175 others were wounded.