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Battles of Tarawa and
Pearl Harbor re-created
at Pontchartrain Beach

Japanese Zeros rained bombs on Pearl Harbor on Saturday, and thousands of Americans applauded and cheered.

In 10 intense minutes, the eight propeller-driven airplanes crisscrossed the area at the water's edge, raking sand and shore with machine-gun attacks that sent baseball-playing soldiers diving for cover, or running for anti-aircraft guns.

Flying so low that inscriptions on the fuselages were easily legible, the planes dropped bombs on two piers projecting into the water, touching off fireballs hot enough to be felt several hundred yards away. The eardrum-popping level of the noise from the planes, the weapons and the brass shell casings clattering to the tile walkway from the anti-aircraft guns was loud enough to drown out even the mighty Kate Smith as she belted out "God Bless America" on the public-address system.

But this scene wasn't quite what you might think. The airplanes came from Midland, Texas, instead of Tokyo, and the lethal-looking bombs and depth charges were a pyrotechnic display set off in Lake Pontchartrain, on the other side of the levee from the University of New Orleans Technology Park.

The restaging of the Pearl Harbor attack, minus the massive ships that the Japanese damaged and sank, was the centerpiece of a day full of re-enactments of World War II events; others included beach stormings in authentic landing craft and a dramatization of the Marine assault on Tarawa. It was part of the celebration of the opening of the National D-Day Museum's Pacific wing.

And even though Pearl Harbor, which happened 60 years ago Friday, was an unmitigated tragedy for the United States that killed thousands of people and pulled the nation into World War II, the pageant's stagers managed to pull off a final