An Oak Harbor resident and survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack remembers the day that sent the U.S. into war.
SEATTLE — The 74th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor is being commemorated Monday with ceremonies across the nation.
Pearl Harbor Day honors the 2,400 people who died when the Japanese attacked the base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. It brought a war fought largely in Europe to U.S. soil. Flags will be flown at half-staff at government locations to honor those who died, and many homes across the country will display the American flag.
Among the survivors, Hal Johnson, 91, remembers details like the attack was yesterday. Johnson, who enlisted at age 17, was a gunner on the USS Oklahoma during the attack.
He and his fellow sailors were preparing for a free day off the ship, when he remembers a voice over the loud speaker telling the men to ‘man their battle stations’.
“Everybody thought it was a drill,” said Johnson. “Then a second voice that came over said ‘this is no BS this is the real thing.'”
Just as he manned his gunner seat in the hull of the ship, the Oklahoma took a first torpedo. A total of eight smashed into the battleship sending Johnson and his fellow sailors to scramble for safety to the deck of the ship.
“I jumped through the hatch, and the water was already half way up the deck,” he said.
As a ninth torpedo hit, the Oklahoma began listing severely to one side, making it more difficult for sailors to get to safety.
“It look like it was going to come right over on top of us,” Johnson remembered. “I decided to swim for it. Of course we were all covered in oil, you couldn’t tell your best friend from anybody in there,”
There were 2,402 US deaths from the attack. 1,177 of those deaths were from the USS Arizona, while 429 of the deaths were from the USS Oklahoma.
Johnson, who now lives at Harbor Tower Village in Oak Harbor, started the North Cascade Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Association. Once including 60 members, Johnson is one of only four remaining survivors.
“Don’t ever forget Pearl Harbor,” he said. “And let’s not let it happen again.”