• 61°

Survivor recalls fear, anger on day of Pearl Harbor attack

By AUDREY McAVOY,  Associated Press

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — 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 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 a.m. — 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 capsizing 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 a.m. on Dec. 7, I look out and spotted a submarine that wasn’t supposed to be in that area,” the 104-year-old Chavez said.

The sailors reported the sighting and Chavez went home to sleep. He told his wife not to wake him because he hadn’t gotten any rest during the busy night.

“It seemed like I only slept about 10 minutes when she called me and said ‘we’re being attacked.’ And I said ‘who is going to attack us?’ She said ‘the Japanese are here and they’re attacking everything,'” Chavez said.

These days, many people treat Chavez and other Pearl Harbor survivors like celebrities, asking them for autographs and photos. But Chavez said it’s about the people who were lost.

“I’m honoring them, not myself,” he said.

Comments

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pancake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread