7 Pearl Harbor survivors honored on USS Midway

Posted at 5:08 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 08:08:25-05

SAN DIEGO -- Seven survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor 74 years Monday were honored at a ceremony aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum.

The veterans, well into their 90s, tossed a wreath over the side of the ship into San Diego Bay to commemorate the nearly 2,400 military personnel and civilians killed in the attack by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941, at U.S. military installations in Hawaii.

Most survivors will admit they tend to forget things these days, but not what happened on one of the darkest days in American history.

They remember the sights and the sounds.

"Bam! There went the [USS] Arizona, and I estimated about 32 bodies went flying through the air,” Stuart Hedley explained.

They also remember the sickening smell.

"The worst odor was burning flesh and oil," he added.

He held his breath under water as long as he could; pushing aside bodies and body parts to get to shore.

"The memories of Pearl Harbor are always quite strong with me," survivor Jack Evans told 10News.

The attack thrust the U.S. into World War II, a conflict many Americans were hoping to avoid. President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress the next day that a state of war existed between the U.S. and Japan. Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. a few days later.

Another survivor, who identified himself as Woody, shared his experience with a local media outlet.

"I was down in the magazines sending up ammunition to the guns that were firing at the planes coming in and around," he said. "It was a bad day."

Today "was a good day," by comparison, he said.

"War is hell any way you look at it, and yet, it's necessity if you're going to defend what you believe in," Hedley said. "It's a day of honoring those who were the true heros ... the ones who didn't make it back."

Around 300 members of the San Diego-based dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor joined the ceremony.