WWII vet recalls Pearl Harbor attack
Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
It was a day of treachery that ended with 2,403 Americans killed, 1,178 wounded, 21 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet either damaged or sunk, and the Casus belli that launched the United States into World War II.
Many survivors of that day have since died, but Bill Howell, 89, of Diamond Springs, is still with us.
The last, he says, of the Pearl Harbor survivors in El Dorado County.
The Sunday morning attack
Howell said he had a bird’s-eye view of the attack as he was aboard the USS Phoenix, a light cruiser moored at Pearl Harbor. Only 17 at the time and trained as a helmsman, he was also the one who prepared the rough ship’s log for that day. The memory of what happened etched in paper as well as his mind.
“I wrote in the log that morning, ‘The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.’ I was so busy watching them, I had a hard time writing anything,” he recalled.
“It was just before 8 a.m. in the morning when I saw a series of explosions all along battleship row. I thought an oil barge had exploded but that wasn’t it. A torpedo had hit the USS Oklahoma and then a dive bomber came down and hit the USS Arizona and the vessel along side of her.”
Howell rushed to the bridge, which was his assigned station, as he heard the alarm sound for General Quarters.
He estimated 80 Japanese planes came in the first wave although they were part of a larger fleet that was attacking outlying areas of Oahu. Caught by surprise, few American planes made it into the air to mount a defense. All around them was a mass of black dots of anti-aircraft fire from the ...
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