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On The 75th Anniversary Of Pearl Harbor, Only A Few Survivors Remain


On this day, December 7, back in 1941, Japanese planes bombed Hawaii's Pearl Harbor. Seventy-five years later, a few survivors of that attack are still alive. Here's Wayne Yoshioka from Hawaii Public Radio.

WAYNE YOSHIOKA, BYLINE: The USS Arizona memorial stands over the wreckage of the sunken Navy battle ship where 1,100 sailors have been entombed since December 7, 1941. Ninety-five-year-old Lou Conter is one of five USS Arizona survivors.

LOU CONTER: After the ship blew up, we put the people we had into the motor launches. We got them to the hospital, then we came back, and we fought the fire for two days before we got off.

YOSHIOKA: Conter is attending the 75th Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony along with three other shipmates. Delton Walling is one of 30 other Pearl Harbor survivors. He was a 19-year-old Navy signalman in 1941.

DELTON WALLING: I was on the tower at Pearl Harbor. I saw it from 180 feet in the air looking down. But just remember, with 152 planes dropping bombs and torpedoes, I couldn't see it all.

YOSHIOKA: Walling and fellow survivor Earl Smith raised $500 each day in donations for the memorial, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Smith was also 19 during the 1941 attack, stationed on the USS Tennessee.

EARL SMITH: Fortunately for us, we were inboard of the West Virginia. She took nine torpedoes. We had two bomb hits. We lost five men.

YOSHIOKA: Navy seaman James Moore is 19 today and serves on the aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis. He salutes Smith.

JAMES MOORE: I'm here now to take his watch because he's now retired, and now it's my time to serve. So I feel like I'm living through him, for my country and everything.

YOSHIOKA: Today, more than 5,000 visitors are ferried each day to the Arizona Memorial. Conter says the memorial is a reminder for all Americans to never forget.

CONTER: We don't want it to happen again. We must have everybody highly trained and ready to make a move in a second, know what they're doing and don't get caught with our pants down.

YOSHIOKA: The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association once had 18,000 members. It was disbanded in 2011, when membership was down to 2,700. For NPR News, I'm Wayne Yoshioka in Honolulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.