Some Read History; Pearl Harbor Survivor Joe Whitt Lived It – Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii 2021-07-20 08:16:08 –

Over the years, I have walked many Civil War battlefields, from Gettysburg to Shiro to Antietam. And as I walk, I always stop and think about the “witness tree.” This is a huge old tree that was actually there in the 1860s and witnessed the battle.

I’ve always thought of my old friend Joe Whit in Clermont County. The person who died on April 14 At the age of 97, as a tree of human witnesses..

For Joe, who has long lived as a resident of the Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown, the attack on the U.S. Navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, is neither a distant event nor the subject of a book or movie. was. Academic discussion on how and why the Japanese attacked that Sunday morning.

Joe Wit was there.

Joe was aboard the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco at the port dry dock. At that time, Hawaii’s deep blue Sunday morning sky was darkened by Japanese fighters and bombers, handling death from the sky.

Through smoke and fire, Joe saw USS Arizona destroyed by the bombing and sinking under the waves. His combat station was a 12-inch anti-aircraft turret gun, but he couldn’t fire in their close proximity, so Joe and his companions were given an old bolt-action marine rifle to fire on an incoming plane. I was told.

They may have been using peashooters. The sky was thick with a plane.

“It was a complete mess. It was a surprising attack and no one was ready for what we faced,” Joe went to Pearl Harbor for the Cincinnatien Quailer a few years ago. I told me when I interviewed him about one of the stories.

That day, as Franklin D. Roosevelt called it, “it lives infamously”, 2,403 Americans were killed and another 1,178 were injured.

“Even after many years, memories can overflow and I feel like I’m back in Pearl Harbor,” Joe said one day over lunch at McDonald’s in New Richmond.

“It smells of smoke, burning fuel, and a ship sinking in the harbor. It’s something you won’t forget.”

And that day, he was an 18-year-old boy from Bethel, Ohio, who was enlisted in the Navy almost a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I think I first met Joe in 1995, when a monument was dedicated to the 17 survivors of Pearl Harbor in the county.

Joe Whit was the last person to survive until last week. Now they are all gone.

But the stories told by men like Joe Whit never die.

They have been stored in countless news articles over the years, including some of me. And they survived a recorded interview conducted by Joe for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project a few years ago and were permanently preserved in both the Library of Congress and the Clermont County Public Library archives. ..

“It hasn’t been lost at all,” said former Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud.

Proud was a good friend of Joe Wit. Joe said, “I will live in the hearts of all the school students and adults I’ve heard him speak for years. Thousands of people influenced by this guy. Will bring history back to life. “

Over the years, Joe has spoken to countless groups of both adults and school children. A few years ago, I went to Betheltate Middle School with him, where I heard him talk to students studying World War II in textbooks. But suddenly, this old man who was actually there at the moment of the attack on Pearl Harbor was in front of them.

The children were completely fascinated.

Proud remembered when Joe was asked to speak to a kindergarten class at a local school.

“Joe told me,’I can’t go there and talk to these little kids about all of that-blood, bloodshed, and death,'” Proud said. ””

So Proud told them how Joe appeared in class, how it felt to be in Hawaii, how beautiful the island was, and how he saw whales jumping into the water.

“He fascinated them,” Proud said.

This was the man World War II story It did not start and end on December 7, 1941. He took action in 17 major battles and was assigned to the Navy for six years. It can be said that he heard the first and last shots of World War II. The first is Pearl Harbor and the last is the end of the war in Okinawa.

He returned to Clermont County and raised his family. After his death, he was survived by his wife Judith and son Rodney Whit. Daughter Carolyn Larson. 6 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

Joe Witt thought he was fortunate to have survived the war, lived a very good life, raised his family, and became one of the most beloved figures in Clermont County.

“Remembering everyone who died in Pearl Harbor that day, why did I survive,” Joe told me a few years ago. That’s what I’m trying to do. “

See “The Story from the Trail” here for more information.

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