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Home News Latest ‘That sacred morning’: Survivors share memories of Pearl Harbor attack

‘That sacred morning’: Survivors share memories of Pearl Harbor attack

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Henry “Andy” Anderson, 94, of Lakeport, Calif., was a 23-year-old commissary storekeeper aboard the USS Tennessee when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack catapulted the United States into World War II. Here Anderson shows a piece of shrapnel from a Japanese bomb that hit the Tennessee’s turret and went right through the seat where Anderson would have been sitting for breakfast had he not been on errands that morning. During the local Pearl Harbor commemoration in Lakeport on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Anderson said the sharp chunk of metal was enough to kill someone, “or at least give ‘em a headache.” With the death last month of Clarence “Bud” Boner – who also was aboard the Tennessee – Anderson and Bill Slater of Lakeport, who was a 17-year-old sailor on the USS Pennsylvania – are Lake County’s last Pearl Harbor survivors. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – On the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, community members and survivors alike gathered to remember the event that led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

As it has for the last several years, the annual Pearl Harbor commemoration in Lakeport – organized by Ronnie and Janeane Bogner of Clearlake Oaks – began at the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Memorial Mast in Library Park at 9 a.m., which was at about the time in California when the attack began. Honolulu time was 7:55 a.m. at the start of the attack.

Men and women in uniform from agencies including Lakeport Police, Lakeport Fire, Clearlake Police, the California Highway Patrol, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Probation, the Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Lake County Flotilla 88 formed a line near the mast.

Dr. Bill Cornelison, the retired Lake County Superintendent of Schools, led the invocation in remembrance of “that sacred morning.”

A bugler from the Lake County Military Funeral Honors Team played the church call, “To the Colors” as the flags were raised and then, after a rifle volley, “Taps,” before the team left to provide honors at another funeral service. They have done more than 900 funerals so far for veterans around the county and the region.

The ceremony then moved indoors to the Lakeport City Council chambers, where Ronnie Bogner introduced the special guests, the men and women who are members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors group.

The group, in recent weeks, has narrowed to just two local men who survived the attack – Henry “Andy” Anderson and Bill Slater, both of Lakeport. Clarence “Bud” Boner of Clearlake Oaks died Nov. 21, as Lake County News has reported.

Community members gather at the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Memorial Mast in Library Park in Lakeport, Calif., on Friday, December 7, 2012. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

Also among the honorees were “sweethearts” – the affectionate term used for widows of members – including Alice Darrow, whose husband Dean Darrow was on the USS West Virginia, and Charlotte Bower, whose husband Chuck had been at the US Sub Base.

Jackie Wages, who now lives in Cloverdale, was a child when she and her family watched the planes attack from the front yard of their home near the base. Another local child survivor, Penny Lunt, whose father worked aboard the USS Solace hospital ship, was unable to attend due to illness.

Cornelison, who teaches history at Yuba College and has hosted Pearl Harbor survivors in his classes, was the keynote speaker.

“They tell me the sun was shining that morning,” Cornelison said, explaining how the young men on the ships had planned to spend the day – some writing home, others visiting town.

Then, out of a clear blue Sunday sky, the attack happened, and as they had been trained, the young men went to their battle stations, Cornelison said. “They went right into the thick of it.”

Some 2,400 people would die that day, with nearly 1,300 more injured, Cornelison said.

He compared what the men and women at Pearl Harbor faced with the struggles of those who served during the Revolutionary War, Civil War and the landing at Normandy during World War II.

Cornelison recalled Pearl Harbor survivor Walter Urmann, who died this past March, telling students during a visit to Cornelison’s Yuba College that he wasn’t a hero – those who didn’t return home were the heroes.

He said President Abraham Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg resonated for those fell at Pearl Harbor – “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ...”

Remembering the day

During “ships and stations” each of the survivors shared some of their story.

Anderson, 94, was a 24-year-old storekeeper on the USS Tennessee. After the attack began, he and other sailors went out into the harbor on a whaleboat to pluck injured men from the water.

“We found a few,” he recalled.

He brought with him a treasured reminder of that day – a large chunk of shrapnel from a Japanese bomb that hit his ship’s turret and might have hit him had he been sitting in his usual place for breakfast.

“I rescued this piece of it,” he said, noting it was big enough to kill someone, “or at least give ‘em a headache.”

Sitting beside him was 88-year-old Bill Slater of Lakeport, who had been a 17-year-old sailor aboard the USS Pennsylvania at the time of the attack.

He was below deck when the alarms went off. “Now hear this, all hands man battle stations,” Slater recalled coming over the ship’s address system.

Slater was an ammunition handler for a three-inch anti-aircraft gun on the Pennsylvania.

The USS Arizona after it was bombed by Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

A hoist that brought ammunition up from storage for the gun malfunctioned, so Slater had to go down below and carry the ammunition up manually.

He said three shells came in a wooden box, and there were 50 of the boxes below deck. A bomb hit the ship but the ammunition didn’t explode; rather, it burned, he said.

Had the ammunition hoist worked, Slater said he would have been hit by the bomb, which landed where he would have been standing.

Alice Darrow was a Navy nurse working at Mare Island when in April 1942 Dean Darrow was brought in for treatment.

During the attack, he had been blown off the USS West Virginia into the burning water, but managed to swim out from under the oil slick caused by the destruction of the USS Arizona.

A whaleboat picked him up, and as he was being pulled from the water he was hit by strafing fire from the Japanese planes. A bullet lodged in his heart, a fact doctors would not realize until examining him months later after continued episodes of fainting that they had believed was caused by “battle nerves.”

Before going into heart surgery – not a common procedure in the 1940s – Darrow elicited a promise from young Nurse Alice Beck that she would go on liberty with him.

Doctors performed open heart surgery on Darrow, and successfully pulled from his heart the two-inch bullet, which Alice Darrow showed on Friday.

When he woke up, he reminded her they were going on liberty. They did, and they were married four months later, in August, 1942. They went on to raise four children together.

“He always said the best thing he got out of the Navy was his nurse,” Alice Darrow said, adding that she filled the hole in his heart with her love during their years together. He died in 1991.

Charlotte Bower said her husband, Chuck, who died in 2010, had helped pull the bodies of Japanese seamen from a two-man mini submarine destroyed in the harbor. He also had been aboard a submarine that was hit by friendly fire in Australia.

Bogner said the late Jim Harris, who had been a young sailor at Pearl Harbor and later was at the D-Day invasion of Normandy, liked to point out that Pearl Harbor survivors were there “for the whole war.”

Kelseyville resident Randy Ridgel, himself a retired Navy man, recounted that in his rural Louisiana hometown no one had known where Pearl Harbor was until the attack occurred. Afterward, the town’s young men were lining up to go into the military.

As is the annual custom, a bell was wrung for each of the local survivors who have died as Bogner read their names and ships.

The ceremony ended with a new addition – Slater and Anderson, as the two remaining survivors, drank a toast to their comrades in a gesture reminiscent of that used by Doolittle’s Raiders, a group that went on bombing runs of Japan in retali

ation for the Pearl Harbor attack.

Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.

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Comments (1)Add Comment
Fantastic article
written by a guest, December 08, 2012
and a fitting tribute to our living heroes. I got to visit the Memorial a few years ago. A sacred place.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 December 2013 16:05 )