SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Seventy-five years ago, the world was at war and the USS San Francisco was part of a massive naval struggle to take the Pacific island of Guadalcanal.

Chief Jon “Johnny” Gordon was aboard the ship and remembers that midnight battle of 13 November, 1942.

“The attack started and there was a lot of shooting going between the two ships. As we received a big bombardment of ammunition, it set fires all the time.”

One hundred sailors and seven Marines died on the San Francisco.

One of them was John L. Williamson, an anti-aircraft gunner killed when a shell hit his position at the vessel’s stern. His nephew, Troy Williamson Thorup, traveled from North Carolina for Sunday’s ceremony to honor the young man he never got to meet.

“He was 21-22 years old — a baby — and just the bravery and heroism of these people, you hear a lot of people say it’s the last, greatest generation and it truly makes you believe that,” Thorup said.

The San Francisco survived 17 major battles in World War II, starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor and ending with the last battle of Okinawa.

John A McKnight, president of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation, was specific about the purpose of Memorial Day.

“This isn’t a day to remember us veterans. This is a day to remember those who did not come home,” he said.

That was true on both sides of the conflict. On Sunday, for the first time, an official representative of Japan, Jun Yamada, spoke at the ceremony.

“On behalf of the people and government of Japan I hereby offer, with profound respect, our eternal condolence to the souls who lost their lives on the battlefields,” said Yamada, who is Japan’s consul general.

So, seventy-five years later, those who were once enemies stood together on common ground.

See the KCBS-TV video here.