World America 07 Dec 2016 Survivor recalls fea ...

Survivor recalls fear, anger on day of Pearl Harbor attack

AP
Published Dec 7, 2016, 4:09 pm IST
Updated Dec 7, 2016, 4:16 pm IST
Thousands of other servicemen and women and members of the public are expected to attend and watch via a livestream feed.
Jim Downing is among a few dozen survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who plan to gather at the Hawaii naval base. (Photo: AP)
 Jim Downing is among a few dozen survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who plan to gather at the Hawaii naval base. (Photo: AP)

Pearl Harbor: Surprise, fear, anger and pride overcame Jim Downing as Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. Then a newlywed sailor, he recalled a Japanese plane flying low and slow in his direction as he rushed to his battleship from his home after hearing explosions and learning of the attack on the radio.

"When he got the right angle, he banked over, turned his machine guns lose," Downing, now 103, said in an interview at a Waikiki hotel, "But fortunately he didn't bank far enough so it went right over my head."

 

The next aviator might have better aim, Downing remembers thinking. And with nowhere to hide, "I was afraid," he said.

Downing plans to return to Pearl Harbor on Wednesday with a few dozen other survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack that plunged the United States into World War II and left more than 2,300 service people dead.

Those who gather at the ceremony on a pier overlooking the harbor are expected to observe a moment of silence at 7:55 am, the same moment Japanese planes began their assault.

Thousands of other servicemen and women and members of the public are expected to attend and watch via a livestream feed.

 

Downing said he comes back to Hawaii for the anniversary commemorations to be with his shipmates.

"We get together and have a great time and compare our stories," said Downing, a resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado. His ship, the USS West Virginia, was hit by nine torpedoes.

"We were sinking and everything above the water line was on fire," he said.

Downing said he felt proud while watching sailors balance the capsising ship by allowing water to seep in. The tactic let the giant battleship slide into mud below.

 

"They just instinctively did the right thing at the right time without any thought about their own lives or safety," he said.

The West Virginia lost 106 men. Downing spent two hours fighting fires and checking the name tags of the dead so he could write their families personal notes about how they died.

"I thought that would give them more closure that just a cold note, 'your son was killed in action,'" said Downing, who also served as the ship's postmaster.

Ray Chavez was out on a minesweeper, the USS Condor, in the early hours before the attack. He remembers noticing with his shipmates that a mysterious submarine was lurking off the harbor.

 

"At 3:45 am on December 7, I look out and spotted a submarine that wasn't supposed to be in that area," the 104-year-old Chavez said.

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