A little-known piece of history sits along the waterfront on the Sacramento side of the Tower Bridge.
It's the ship's bell from the USS Sacramento, a Navy gunboat present at one of history's monumental events: the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Twenty-five years ago, city officials and war veterans gathered at the Sacramento River to dedicate the bell. Four former crew members heard the bell clang during that ceremony. Then-City Councilman Terry Kastanis said the bell commemorated the service members who had died at Pearl Harbor.
The bell had been stored in a Navy warehouse since the gunboat was decommissioned in 1946, said Sacramento resident Jack Halligan, who was on hand for the bell ceremony.
The crew of the USS Sacramento is credited with shooting down two enemy warplanes and rescuing sailors from stricken ships.
Veterans hope that long after members from the Greatest Generation are gone, the bell will remain as a reminder of that kind of valor.
In 1984, USS Sacramento sailors also presented artifacts to the old Sacramento History Center, including signal flags and original copies of radio messages received on Dec. 7, 1941.
"We actually have quite a bit of material related to World War II," said Marcia Eymann, history manager. "Our collections were used by Ken Burns when he did his documentary."
Eymann said World War II changed Sacramento, bringing thousands of people to the region's military bases.
"The two key events for Sacramento are the Gold Rush and World War II," she said.
Among the artifacts at what is now called the Center for Sacramento History is a one-page personal history by Walter Laud, a sailor aboard the USS Sacramento.
On the morning of Dec. 7, Radioman 2nd Class Laud had just lathered up for shaving when he heard loud thuds.
"After I gathered up my gear (the shaving cream still on my face) I headed top side for the main deck to see what was going on. When I got to the main deck I looked to the stern of the ship and lo and behold there was a plane with the "Rising Sun" flying so low and so close that it seemed I could almost reach out and touch it.
"I could see the pilot very clearly as he sat in the cockpit concentrating on the targets before him. He was only a few hundred yards from battleship row. These were no practice runs, the planes were Japanese, and this was for real so I headed for the radio room, which was my battle station.
"Along the way, I wiped shaving cream from my face. There would be no shaving until after the second strike by the Japanese planes."
For its actions in the Pacific theater throughout World War II, the USS Sacramento was awarded a battle star.
Sam Clower of Sacramento, who is the state chairman of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, knows of the ship's bell near the Tower Bridge.
Clower said there are fewer than 4,000 Pearl Harbor survivors in the United States. About 450 survivors live in California.
About 36 Pearl Harbor veterans live in the Sacramento region. Two decades ago, there were 138.
Clower noted that Sacramento's chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will host its annual breakfast and memorial service at 8 a.m. today at the VFW Hall, 8990 Kruithof Way in Fair Oaks.
Another Pearl Harbor survivor, Bob Castle, 89, of Sacramento, was aboard the USS Tennessee in Battleship Row on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship was damaged in the attack.
Castle said he saw a Japanese plane close enough to see the pilot.
"If I had a good rock I could have hit him," said Castle, who operated a fire hose on his ship, spraying water to prevent ammunition from exploding on the USS West Virginia, tied up on the port side of the USS Tennessee.
Castle also fought the fire raging on the USS Arizona as he stood on the fantail of the USS Tennessee.
Castle said many people today don't know about the attack at Pearl Harbor or have forgotten. He believes this because of the lack of response to his vehicle license plates that note he's a Pearl Harbor survivor.
"Ten or 15 years ago, hardly a day went by on the road when somebody didn't honk the horn or salute you," he said.
Castle said he hardly ever sees another car with Pearl Harbor survivor plates.