View Full Version : In remembrance of a day of Infamy - Dec 7th - Pearl Harbor

12-07-2016, 12:46 PM
World War II veterans arriving this past Saturday at Honolulu International Airport were greeted by service members. PHOTO: PETTY OFFICER 1ST CLASS NARDEL GERVACIO/U.S. NAVY

HONOLULU—Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Girocco is one of the last men standing.

During the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese, Mr. Girocco was one of about 60,000 military personnel stationed on Oahu. The attackclaimed the lives of 2,403 Americans (http://www.pearlharbor.us/casualties/), most on ships that were bombed at the Pearl Harbor naval base.

Today, he is one of only seven known Pearl Harbor survivors still living in Hawaii, and the last who still reports for duty on the Ford Island part of the base where he served as a Navy flight engineer during the attack. His present volunteer assignment: sitting at a museum desk and telling visitors what it was like on the day that propelled America into World War II.

“It was the luck of the draw why I’m still here,” said Mr. Girocco, 95 years old. “I was very fortunate, and others weren’t. That’s it.”

Mr. Girocco is getting company as more than 100 other survivors converge on Hawaii to attend the 75th anniversary commemoration (http://www.wsj.com/articles/pearl-harbor-attacks-75th-anniversary-1480957091)that began this week. Four of the five survivors of the bombing of the USS Arizona, in which 1,177 crewmen were killed, are also scheduled to attend.

But that is a fraction of the attendance at milestone events in decades past, when upward of 3,000 would turn out. With most remaining veterans in their 90s, organizers of the commemoration have billed this as the last big gathering of Pearl Harbor survivors. Indeed, one group of 14 severely infirm veterans called this trip their last wish, according to an organizer of their travel.

“Clearly, the number of survivors is dwindling next to nothing,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “The next big milestone is the 100, and there will be no survivors.”

That’s why this year’s survivors are being lavished with VIP treatment. They are getting floats on which to ride for Wednesday’s parade, and they will be the center of attention at banquets and other events throughout the week. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he plans to personally thank each one he meets.

“I plan to go up and give them a hug,” Mr. Caldwell said last week. “We are so proud of what they did for our country.”

Indeed, the Pearl Harbor survivors are getting attention almost wherever they go here. Hula dancers and local dignitaries greeted a planeload of 70 survivors when they landed at Honolulu International Airport on Saturday.


A Long Journey After 75 Years (http://www.wsj.com/articles/pearl-harbor-survivor-makes-a-5-000-mile-trek-1481029201?tesla=y)
Essay: The Admiral Who Took the Fall for Pearl Harbor (http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-admiral-who-took-the-fall-for-pearl-harbor-1480702396)
Photos: A Look Back at the Attack (http://www.wsj.com/articles/pearl-harbor-attacks-75th-anniversary-1480957091?tesla=y)

On his Hawaiian Airlines (http://quotes.wsj.com/HA) flight from Oakland, Calif., on Friday, 94-year-old Jon “Chief Johnny” Gordon was honored by a flight attendant who led the cabin in a round of applause for him. Mr. Gordon, who was aboard the USS San Francisco as chief commissary steward during the attack, attributed the praise to the significance of that day.

“That was when we were called to save the world,” said Mr. Gordon, of Walnut Creek, Calif.

While many of the veterans are returning after decades, Mr. Girocco relives the attack three days a week, as a volunteer at the Pacific Aviation Museum, which has a display of World War II fighter planes and related artifacts on Ford Island. A frail great-great grandfather who walks with a cane, he said he and other members of a squadron for amphibious landing planes were working inside Hangar 54 that Sunday morning in 1941 when they heard the sound of planes dive-bombing outside.

“We thought it was our guys playing with us,” Mr. Girocco recalled while working a shift at the museum Saturday, adding the pilots would sometimes drop fake flour-filled sacks on them as a prank. “Someone said, ‘Those idiots are at it again.’ ”

But when they ran outside, he said, they could see the planes were Japanese Zeros. “Then it became survival,” he said. “We ran away from the hangar, and took cover in a 6-foot-deep ditch.”

A 1943 photo of Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Girocco. PHOTO: PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM PEARL HARBOR

The sailors huddled in the ditch as the Japanese planes rained bombs down on Pearl Harbor. “What I remember the most was the noise and concussion,” he said. “When the Arizona exploded, it actually shook the ground like an explosion.”

The attack took part in two waves. When the first wave ended after an hour, Mr. Girocco said he got out of the ditch and headed back to his hangar. But 15 minutes later, the Zeros returned, and the young sailor was thrown up against the hangar by the force of a large explosion when the USS Shaw was bombed nearby.

He and the other sailors ran back to the ditch, but this time he was spotted by a Japanese pilot flying low. “I could see his face, and a leather helmet with fur around it,” Mr. Girocco said. “He lined up over the ditch to make a strafing run at us, but fortunately someone fired a .50 caliber gun at him, and he veered off.”

Mr. Girocco, who remained in the Navy for 20 years, moved from California to Hawaii in 1987 and found himself driving over to Pearl Harbor to reminisce. About five years ago, he accepted an offer from the aviation museum to tell visitors his story and sign autographs. “It’s much more meaningful to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” said Ian Birnie, a docent at the museum who lived through the Japanese attack as a 6-year-old boy in Honolulu.

Visitors go away impressed. “We appreciate the sacrifice these boys made,” 60-year-old Richard Eckard, of Icard, N.C., said after shaking the veteran’s hand Saturday. “I feel indebted to them.”

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com


Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor, 104, Flies Back to Honolulu

Ray Chavez, who lives in San Diego’s Poway community, boarded a flight to Hawaii Saturday, on his way to a special ceremony that marks the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

By Steven Luke and Monica Garske

A 104-year-old San Diego resident known as the oldest survivor of Pearl Harbor boarded a flight to Honolulu Saturday, where he will be honored at a ceremony.
Ray Chavez, who lives in Poway, will serve as a special guest of the 75th anniversary commemorative ceremonies on Dec. 7. Seaman 1st Class Chavez was assigned to the USS Condor. On Dec. 7, 1941, he was asleep at home after a minesweeping mission during which his crew helped in sinking an enemy submarine. His wife woke him up with word of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Chavez raced to the burning Pearl Harbor and did not leave for a week. Today, he is the oldest known living U.S. military veteran of the bombing raid that killed thousands and sparked WWII.
“I never will forget [Pearl Harbor] as long as I live,” Chavez said before boarding his flight at the San Diego International Airport Saturday.

Alaska Airlines flew Chavez and his daughter, Kathleen – a retired U.S. Navy veteran – first class.

“He’s the oldest, and there’s not too many of them left anymore,” his daughter said.

San Diego firefighter Mitch Mendler and retired New York firefighter Joe Torillo, who survived the 9/11 attacks, accompanied Chavez on the flight as honorary escorts.
A special TSA line awaited Chavez at the airport, giving him his screening. And, as he made his way to his gate, stranger after stranger stopped him to take photos with him, shake his hand and thank him for his service.

Chavez said he’s humbled by the attention.
“Well, I’m not exactly a hero, because there were thousands of other heroes, too. But I’m very proud of the honor bestowed on me,” he added.

Raymond Chavez may be 104 years old, but he’s not letting that get in the way of his workout routine or the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
The centenarian, who lives in Poway, in northeast San Diego, lifts weights, does sit-ups and rides a stationary bike with the help of his personal trainer.

Chavez was serving on a minesweeper Navy ship in Pearl Harbor on that infamous day in 1941 and remembers it well.
"On December sixth it was very quiet, but on December seventh everything broke loose," he told NBC 7.

Chavez was born in San Bernardino and returned to California after leaving the Navy, but said he’s never forgotten Pearl Harbor.
“We’re going back because I feel part of it,” Chavez told NBC 7. “Right here the programs are very good, very nice, but over there I feel different, completely different. I feel like I am one with them, and they are part of me. And it just reminds me of December the seventh with all the men that were lost and the ships that were sunk. I go and say a little prayer for their souls and that makes me feel better.”

Chavez and his daughter have been to Pearl Harbor a few times in the last decade, but this year is special – It’s the 75th anniversary. They plan to attend the remembrance ceremonies and the memorial services for all the people who lost their lives in the attack.
“I did have a few friends who were lost and I never saw them again,” Chavez said. “That’s another reason I go. I like to be there with them.”

Sean Thompson has been training Chavez at Personally Fit in Poway for the last three years. He said when Chavez first started he was sedentary and weighed just 92 pounds, but after six months of coming in twice a week, he had gained 20 pounds of muscle.
Not only is Chavez the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor, but according to Thompson, he’s also one of the fittest.

“Pretty astonishing results for someone over 100 to make 20 pounds of muscle,” Thompson said. “His body was still craving exercise…He’s definitely a hero in my eyes.”
Thompson and Personally Fit mutually decided to raise money to send Chavez and his daughter first-class to Pearl Harbor, pay for their accommodations, a luau and, if they get enough donations, pay for more survivors to make the trip.

They collaborated with the Scripps-Poway Rotary Club and put together a 501c3 to raise money.
“The three of us kind of collaborated to get it done and Personally Fit went ahead and got the tickets, so he’s going no matter how much we raise, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to cover that expense and actually send some more of our vets,” Thompson said. “The more we get the more we can send.”

“I never will forget that as long as I live because people have been very, very good and very nice,” Chavez said about the people who had donated money to help him get to Pearl Harbor. “Very helpful too.”
People who want to donate to “Pearl Flight” can visit the Gofundme page.

Published at 7:40 PM PDT on Jul 8, 2016 | Updated at 9:52 AM PDT on Jul 9, 2016

Source: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/104-Year-Old-Pearl-Harbor-Survivor-Training-for-Reunion--386089341.html#ixzz4SAk0LHWe
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Bad Water Bill
12-07-2016, 02:26 PM
Who can ever forget that day and those brave people that proudly served during that war.

Truly the greatest generation I will ever see.

12-07-2016, 06:29 PM
"How far? All the way!" May all the survivors be blessed beyond measure for what they did that day. All the survivors of all the wars, conflicts, or whatever you want to call them, deserve all our thanks and gratitute. As do all those that paid the ulitmate price for our freedom.

12-08-2016, 12:10 AM
Thanks Art .

12-08-2016, 12:52 AM
I think the saviors are there, not to brag, but show the rest of us the price of freedom. It is up to us to decide if it is too high and to give in to the enemies that suround us. Or will we continue on with their strength, bravery, and fortitude.
Ole Jack

Bad Water Bill
12-08-2016, 01:53 AM
Here is another one I will never forget.

The 5 Sullivan brothers.

12-08-2016, 02:30 AM
Here is another one I will never forget.

The 5 Sullivan brothers.


12-08-2016, 11:55 AM
While waiting in a clinic at the VA a few years back I met an old vet sitting next to me that was waiting to get some stitches out of his hand. He was at Pearl Harbor IIRC and told me he had 4 boats sunk from under him in the war. Can't imagine the carnage he must have seen. He got called away to have the stitches removed before we could talk much but he must have been one tough sailor!

12-08-2016, 12:13 PM
those who lived through Pearl Harbor set the standard for American Resolve when we are attacked. Wonder if today our young people would answer the call to Arms like we saw so many years ago??
May the Good Lord keep and protect all who have ever served America and all who will do so in the present and future

Teddy (punchie)
12-08-2016, 12:50 PM
Yep think often about WWII not may left. I talk to any I see and thank them.

Bad Water Bill
12-08-2016, 03:31 PM
When we returned from our Med Cruise we sat in the big hall awaiting a talk from "THE CHAPLAIN"

When he approached the podium we still kept talking to each other till he said SHUT THE F---UP.

Suddenly you could hear a pin drop.

Then he told some of his history in the military.

He was in the Merchant Marines and has 6 ships sunk under him while on the Murmansk runs.

Then he got religion and now he had our full attention..

Bad Water Bill
12-08-2016, 03:54 PM
2 years ago I stopped at my LGS and was surprised to see a squad car and an ambulance sitting there.

There was an OLD fellow sitting in a chair with a veterans hat on his head and a bunch of salid pinned to his chest.

A member of the family was with him and told me he had Alzheimers and just babbled on and off.

He has never been anywhere nor done a darned thing that we know about said the relative.

Well since I have some dealings with folks with that terrible illness I started talking to the old vet.

Yes he drove supply trucks over the Burma Hump and went on to describe how our fighter pilots saved his life more than once.

As a relative placed the old dejected man in their car to take him back home I stepped out of the LGS and stood along side of the car.


Suddenly that old man sat up perfectly straight and smartly returned my salute with a BIG smile on his face.

12-08-2016, 04:10 PM
Good story Bill; my half Brother was a Jarhead in WWII and served in the Pacific Islands. He never talked much about it though. I have the greatest of affection for those that went through that ordeal. I served during the Vietnam era (never billeted in country) but got to take care of hundreds/thousands that came through my Operating Rooms on Guam (1967-1969). Met some of the finest men/women that it was an Honor to serve with and take care of.