Hawaii remembrance draws handful of Pearl Harbor survivors

Dec 6, 2022, 8:08 AM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 3:45 pm
Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in P...

Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

(AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring, 100, right, of Jackson, Mich., poses for a photo next to his granddaughter Leigh Anne Eaton before a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec . 7, 2022 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Ira Schab, 102, right, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a sailor on the USS Dobbin, talks with reporters while sitting next to his son, retired Navy Cmdr. Karl Schab, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring, 100, right, of Jackson, Mich., poses for a photo next to his granddaughter Leigh Anne Eaton before a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec . 7, 2022 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Ira Schab, 102, right, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a sailor on the USS Dobbin, talks with reporters while sitting next to his son, retired Navy Cmdr. Karl Schab, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring, 100, right, of Jackson, Mich., poses for a photo next to his granddaughter Leigh Anne Eaton before a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec . 7, 2022 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Ira Schab, 102, right, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a sailor on the USS Dobbin, talks with reporters while sitting next to his son, retired Navy Cmdr. Karl Schab, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring, 100, right, of Jackson, Mich., poses for a photo next to his granddaughter Leigh Anne Eaton before a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec . 7, 2022 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Ira Schab, 102, right, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a sailor on the USS Dobbin, talks with reporters while sitting next to his son, retired Navy Cmdr. Karl Schab, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring, 100, right, of Jackson, Mich., poses for a photo next to his granddaughter Leigh Anne Eaton before a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec . 7, 2022 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Pearl Harbor survivors and other military veterans observe a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in remembrance of those killed in the 1941 attack. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Ira Schab, 102, right, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as a sailor on the USS Dobbin, talks with reporters while sitting next to his son, retired Navy Cmdr. Karl Schab, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A handful of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the scene of the Japanese bombing to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              Robert John Lee, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as a 20-year-old civilian, sits in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
            
              FILE - American ships burn during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. A few centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to remember those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/File)
            
              FILE - A small boat rescues a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. A few centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to remember those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/File)
            
              FILE - The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. A few centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to remember those who perished 81 years ago. (AP Photo/File)
            
              FILE - In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. A few centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to remember those who perished 81 years ago. (U.S. Navy via AP)
            
              FILE - In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. The U.S. Navy and the National Park Service will host a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor in December 2022, the 81st anniversary of the 1941 Japanese bombing. (AP Photo/File)
            
              Hawaii state Rep. Bob McDermott, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks in front of a state veterans memorial in Honolulu, Oct. 25, 2022. Democratic incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz is facing McDermott in the race to represent deep blue Hawaii in Washington. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor joined about 2,500 members of the public at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago.

The audience sat quietly during a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the same time the attack began on Dec. 7, 1941.

Sailors aboard the USS Daniel Inouye stood along the rails of the guided missile destroyer while it passed both by the grassy shoreline where the ceremony was held and the USS Arizona Memorial to honor the survivors and those killed in the attack. Ken Stevens, a 100-year-old survivor from the USS Whitney, returned the salute.

“The ever-lasting legacy of Pearl Harbor will be shared at this site for all time, as we must never forget those who came before us so that we can chart a more just and peaceful path for those who follow,” said Tom Leatherman, superintendent of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

About 2,400 servicemen were killed in the bombing, which launched the U.S. into World War II. The USS Arizona alone lost 1,177 sailors and Marines, nearly half the death toll. Most of the Arizona’s fallen remained entombed in the ship, which sits on the harbor floor.

Ira Schab, 102, was on the USS Dobbin as a tuba player in the ship’s band. He recalls seeing Japanese planes flying overhead and wondering what to do.

“We had no place to go and hoped they’d miss us,” he said before the ceremony began.

He fed ammunition to machine gunners on the vessel, which wasn’t hit.

He’s now attended the remembrance ceremony four times.

“I wouldn’t miss it because I got an awful lot of friends that are still here that are buried here. I come back out of respect for them,” he said.

Schab stayed in the Navy during the war. After the war, he studied aerospace engineering and worked on the Apollo program. Today he lives in Portland, Oregon.

He wants people to remember those who served that day.

“Remember what they’re here for. Remember and honor those that are left. They did a hell of a job. Those who are still here, dead or alive,” he said.

Only six survivors attended, fewer than the dozen or more who have traveled to Hawaii from across the country for the annual remembrance ceremony in recent years.

Part of the decline reflects the dwindling number of survivors as they age. The youngest active-duty military personnel on Dec. 7, 1941, would have been about 17, making them 98 today. Many of those still alive are at least 100.

Herb Elfring, 100, or Jackson, Michigan, said was great that many members of the public showed interest in the commemoration and attended the ceremony.

“So many people don’t even know where Pearl Harbor is or what happened on that day,” he said.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard. He remembers hearing bombs explode a few miles down the coast at Pearl Harbor but thought it was part of an exercise.

But then he saw a red ball on the fuselage of a Japanese Zero fighter plane when it strafed the ground alongside him near his barracks at Camp Malakole.

“That was a rude awakening,” he said. One soldier in his unit was injured by the bullets, but no one died, he said.

Robert John Lee recalls being a 20-year-old civilian living at his parent’s home on the naval base where his father ran the water pumping station. The home was just about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) across the harbor from where the USS Arizona was moored on battleship row.

The first explosions before 8 a.m. woke him up, making him think a door was slamming in the wind. He got up to yell for someone to shut the door only to look out the window at Japanese planes dropping torpedo bombs from the sky.

He saw the hull of the USS Arizona turn a deep orange-red after an aerial bomb hit it.

“Within a few seconds, that explosion then came out with huge tongues of flame right straight up over the ship itself — but hundreds of feet up,” Lee said in an interview Monday after a boat tour of the harbor.

He still remembers the hissing sound of the fire.

Sailors jumped into the water to escape their burning ships and swam to the landing near Lee’s house. Many were covered in the thick, heavy oil that coated the harbor. Lee and his mother used Fels-Naptha soap to help wash them. Sailors who were able to boarded small boats that shuttled them back to their vessels.

“Very heroic, I thought,” Lee said of them.

Lee joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard the next day, and later the U.S. Navy. He worked for Pan American World Airways for 30 years after the war.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have statistics for how many Pearl Harbor survivors are still living. But department data show that of the 16 million who served in World War II, only about 240,000 were alive as of August and some 230 die each day.

There were about 87,000 military personnel on Oahu at the time of the attack, according to a rough estimate compiled by military historian J. Michael Wenger.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Designer Stella Jean accepts applause at the end of her womens Spring/Summer 2018/19 fashion...
Associated Press

Stella Jean quits Milan Fashion Week over lack of inclusion

MILAN (AP) — The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion council is withdrawing from this month’s Milan Fashion Week citing a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion, and on Wednesday announced a hunger strike out of concern that other minority designers associated with her will suffer a backlash. Stella Jean told The Associated […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden talks with Vice President Kamala Harris after the State of the Union address to...
Associated Press

Biden makes Wisconsin his 1st stop after State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday was headed to Wisconsin, a battleground state he won by the slimmest of margins in 2020, to press his economic message and other themes from his State of the Union address in the window before his next big speech: announcing a possible reelection bid. Biden was set […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Gr...
Associated Press

International team to present update on MH17 investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U...
Associated Press

China says it was smeared in Biden State of the Union speech

BEIJING (AP) — China says it was smeared in U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that repeatedly mentioned competition between the two countries. China does not fear competing with the U.S. but is “opposed to defining the entire China-U.S. relationship in terms of competition,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a […]
1 day ago
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
1 day ago
South Korean Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min arrives to attend a meeting on integrated de...
Associated Press

South Korean lawmakers impeach minister over crowd crush

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to impeach the country’s interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him responsible for government failures in disaster planning and the response that likely contributed to the high death toll in a crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people in October. The impeachment […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Hawaii remembrance draws handful of Pearl Harbor survivors