By Mike Dougherty

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — On this day 75 years ago, 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was the event that pushed the United States into World War II.

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Ceremonies around the country are honoring the loss of life, including one on the Battleship New Jersey in Camden.

Three retired sailors tossed a wreath into the Delaware River to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Russ Collins, 91, is among the Americans who signed up to fight after the attack. He was stationed aboard the Battleship New Jersey in 1943, which was one of the biggest, baddest war machines in the world at the time.

“Believe it or not, I had a friend on here that I grew up with. Took me two weeks to find him on this ship,” Collins said.

Collins still volunteers on the ship twice a week.

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“A great honor to still be alive to be here,” Collins said.

Retired Navy Captain and historian Walter Urban says the New Jersey went into service a little more than a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.

“Throughout the latter part of the Pacific war, she was a dominant force in projecting our sea power, which eventually won the war,” Urban said.

Urban told CBS 3’s Anita Oh that “freedom is never free.”

“Somebody has to die to defend that freedom and that’s the message that hopefully America is learning and will never forget,” Urban said.

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The New Jersey was awarded 19 battle stars before being retired.