Pearl Harbor survivor Walt Becker recalled how close a Japanese victory came on Dec. 7, 1941.

"We were damn lucky to survive Pearl Harbor," Becker said at a celebration of World War II veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9439, 1800 Bryan Stock Trail, on Sunday.

"If they had followed up, we'd could be eating with chop sticks right now," he said.

The leader of the Japanese air squadron wanted to send in a third wave of planes after the first two waves destroyed many of the battleships in the harbor, Becker said. But the admiral of the Japanese aircraft carrier group decided against it, he said.

The third wave of attacks was intended to destroy the fuel storage tanks, which would have crippled all military operations in Hawaii.

"They could have won that war in seconds," Becker said.

Becker was an engine room mechanic on the U.S.S. Oklahoma when the attack occurred. He scrambled to the top of of the ship before it flipped over and swam to shore. He went back to the Oklahoma and worked for a couple of days to try to drill through the hull to save those trapped inside. Becker signed up to sail on the destroyer USS Blue, which later sunk during the battle of Guadalcanal. After that, he worked on an aircraft carrier that was sunk in a Kamikaze attack.

"I went through a hell of a lot in World War II, but we were able to survive due to our public," Becker said. "Our public was public was behind us like I don't believe our public is behind our armed forces as well, now."

He returned to Wyoming to start the Becker Fire Equipment Co., which was later bought by American LaFrance, which shut down operations in 2006.

Pearl Harbor is remembered not only for the attack that killed nearly 2,400 mostly military personnel, but as one of the pivotal events in American history by thrusting the nation into World War II and setting the nation on a course to be a world superpower.

Major Gen. Luke Reiner, adjutant general for Wyoming, said Pearl Harbor observations remind us that warriors stand on the shoulders of previous generations of warriors.

"What this day is, is a chance for us to pause and to remember and to honor those men and women who were at Pearl Harbor, when World War II, the largest war we've ever had, started," Reiner said.

"Those men and women were phenomenal," he said. "They started off the war that we remember so well."