Oklahoma City

101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 2021-12-06 18:43:55 –

David Russell, 101, a survivor of Pearl Harbor and a veteran of the World War II Navy, was talking about time and postwar life on USS Oklahoma in Albany, Oregon, on November 22. Read Birthday Card (AP Photo / Nathan Howard)

Honolulu – When the Japanese bomb began to fall into Pearl Harbor, US Navy First Class Navy sailor David Russell first sought refuge under the deck of USS Oklahoma.

But a brief decision on that December morning 80 years ago changed his mind and probably saved his life.

“They started closing the hatch, and I decided to get out of it,” Russell, now 101, said in a recent interview.

Within 12 minutes, his battleship capsized under a torpedo barrage. A total of 429 seafarers and marines from Oklahoma will die. This is the highest number of deaths from ships of the day except USS Arizona, which lost 1,177 people.

Russell will return to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday to hold a ceremony to commemorate more than 2,300 US troops killed in an attack that plunged the United States into World War II on December 7, 1941.

About 30 survivors from the war and 100 other veterans are expected to observe a moment of silence at 7:55 am, the moment the attack begins.

Survivors now in their late 90s and above stayed home last year due to a coronavirus pandemic and instead watched a live stream of the event.

Russell is traveling to Hawaii with the Best Defense Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by former NFL linebacker Donnie Edwards to help World War II veterans revisit the old battlefield.

He remembers heading to the topside when the attack began, as he was trained to carry anti-aircraft guns and thought it would be useful in case another loader was injured.

However, Japanese torpedo bombers dropped a series of underwater missiles before Oklahoma got there. Within 12 minutes, a huge battleship capsized.

“These torpedoes kept hitting us and hitting us. I thought they would never stop,” Russell said. “That ship was dancing.”

Russell climbed around the fallen locker while the battleship rolled slowly.

“You had to walk sideways to some extent,” he said.

Upon arriving at the main deck, he crawls alongside the ship and looks at USS Maryland, which is anchored next door. He didn’t want to swim because the leaked oil was burning in the water below. Jumping, he caught a rope hanging from Maryland and escaped to the battleship without injury.

He then helped hand over ammunition to Maryland’s anti-aircraft guns.

After the battle, Russell and the other two went looking for a bathroom on Ford Island, next to where the battleship was moored. The clinic and enlisted dormitory there became a triage center and shelter for hundreds of injured, and the walls were lined with severely burned sailors. Many will die in hours and days.

“Most of them wanted cigarettes, and I didn’t smoke at that time, but I uh, I got a pack of cigarettes and some matches, and I Set fire to their cigarettes for them, “Russell said. “You feel about them, but I couldn’t do anything. Light a cigarette and let him smoke.”

Russell is still thinking about how lucky he was. He wonders why he decided to go to the topside in Oklahoma, knowing that most of the men left behind could not have come out after the hatch closed.

In the first two days after the bombing, a civilian crew member at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard pierced the hull of Oklahoma and rescued 32 men trapped inside Oklahoma. But many others have died. Most of the dead were buried in anonymous Honolulu tombs marked “Unknown” because their bodies were too deteriorated to be identified by the time they were removed from the ship between 1942 and 1944.

In 2015, the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Office unearthed 388 sets of these bodies in the hope of identifying them with the help of DNA technology and dental records. They succeeded in 361.

Russell’s brother-in-law was among them. Firefighter’s first-class Walter “Boon” Rogers was at the fire department, which was hit by a torpedo, Russell said. The army identified his body in 2017 and was subsequently re-buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Russell remained in the Navy until his retirement in 1960. He worked at an air force base for the next 20 years and retired permanently in 1980.

His wife, Violet, died 22 years ago and now lives alone in Albany, Oregon. He heads to the grocery store and the post of the local American Legion in a black Ford Explorer, listening to polka music at the highest volume. He reads military history and watches television when he is not hanging out with other veterans in the army. He holds a stack of 500 piece puzzles to keep his mind sharp.

For decades, Russell didn’t share much about his experience in World War II. No one seemed to care. But images from Pearl Harbor still bother him, especially at night.

“When I was at the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Francisco, they said,’I want you to talk about World War II.’ And I said, I said to them, I said, “When we talk about it, people don’t believe us. They just go away.” So now people do it. We want to know more about it, so we’re trying to talk about it. We’re trying to talk about it, and we’re just telling them what we’ve seen, “he said. “You can’t forget it.”

101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost Source link 101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

Back to top button