Back in 1981, on the night of Thanksgiving Eve before the 40th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, I interviewed a College Station, Texas, veteran who was a survivor of Pearl Harbor for The Bryan-College Station Eagle.
I don’t remember his name (I wish I could) or many details of the interview, but I remember what he looked like and that he was a very gracious man (he wanted me to stop by his house and meet his family on Thanksgiving Eve, after all). I think of him every day on Pearl Harbor Day.
He started out by saying what Pearl Harbor survivors almost always say:
“I remember it like it happened yesterday.”
He told me he was on the deck at the front of the ship that Sunday morning, a young sailor shining his shoes without a care in the world.
The attackers swept in and swept down so close that the vet said the element of surprise was so overwhelming that it took a while for him and others to get their bearings and react.
“I won’t ever forget the face of (a Japanese pilot) who looked right at me smiled at me,” the veteran said. “It was like a movie, the way they smiled at us.”
That quote I remember because of its chilling power.
The theme of today’s 74th Pearl Harbor Commemoration is reconciliation.
Here’s one of the many stories that came out of the day which lives in “infamy.”