In 2017, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that only about 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II remained alive. The number of servicemen who were at Pearl Harbor stands at only a few. This handful of living veterans age well into their 90s. As a result, each one’s story provides a rare first-hand glimpse into the day’s events. For those who survived Pearl Harbor Memorial Day holds its own impactful meaning.
What Does a Pearl Harbor Memorial Day Mean to You?
At Pearl Harbor Warbirds, we’re always honored to learn about the experiences of survivors from Pearl Harbor. We recently received this memoir from the grandson of a Pearl Harbor veteran:
I’m a UA Local Union 420 Philadelphia Steamfitter Serviceman. My grandfather inspired me to wrench and gave me valuable life skills. I was lucky to have so much time with him while he was here. He was a Crew Chief at Wheeler Air Base for a squadron of P-40’s. Born in 1920 he loved anything with an engine, funny being an Italian immigrant custom shoe makers son. He was a mechanic, owned auto repair garages, a Dinoco gas station a teacher at Saw Agricultural and Technical school in Roxborough and much more along his way. But most importantly, he was my Grandpop and best friend. He didn’t share the bad of his experience but always the good in everything, even me because I wasn’t a good listener.
Although he loved cars and auto racing often bringing his children to Langhorne Motor Speedway to see Andretti race on dirt. Airplanes where always his passion. Two of his sons became military pilots. The oldest, Mike, a Naval Commander flying P-3’s and his youngest, Jerry, Air Force Jet pilot getting to fly B-52’s.
My Grandfather brought me to Valley Forge Park when I was in grade school to fly remote control airplanes, eventually leading to his basement being full of them, for me. I was an instructor at 13. I’m now 32 and he’s gone. I miss him every day. I pray and work hard every day with oil in my blood and busted knuckles just like him.
His name is Mario Chiarolanza from Philadelphia.
Keeping the Memory Alive
A Pearl Harbor Memorial Day honors the 2,400 Americans who died, not including the hundreds who suffered injuries. As time moves forwards, more and more of these memories will fade into the stories passed on by future generations. As a result, it is now the responsibility of those descendants to carry on the missing snippets of history.
No matter how much time passes, Pearl Harbor Warbirds keeps the experience alive with vivid adventures that simulate what the real thing was like. Suit up in authentic WWII gear, receive vital survival training and take off into the sky in a SNJ-5C Warbird to follow the same flight paths as the Japanese attackers. The Admiral Warbird’s Adventure brings history to live and remembers the servicemen who perished while serving at Pearl Harbor.