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5 Amazing Pearl Harbor Survivor Stories

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Who: Navy Lt. James Downing
Age at the attack: 28

Navy Lt. James Downing Downing was a gunner’s mate 1st class and postmaster, assigned to the USS West Virginia, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The battleship had just returned to base after more than a week on patrol.

“The first emotion was surprise, and the next thing was fear,” says Downing. “When I saw our ships — so many of them — sunk there, I wondered, ‘What else are they going to do to us here?’ ”

Downing, who joined the Navy after high school for financial reasons, had a career that spanned more than 24 years, including service as captain of the tanker USS Patapsco during the Korean War, he said.

Read his full story on the Denver Post.

USS Arizona Survivor

Who: Glenn Lane
Age at the attack: 23

“He never called himself a hero,” Lane’s youngest daughter, Trish Anderson says. “People would always go, ‘oh, you’re such a hero.’ And he said, ‘no, the heroes are still down in the ship.'”

In December 1941, Glenn Lane was the radioman third class working as a scout in the backseat of a two man airplane. On the morning of the 7th, Lane was about to take a shower when he heard the roar of explosions outside. Anderson says, “he tried to tell some of his friends and they were, ‘ole Lane, you always tell these April Fools’ jokes. Get out of here.’ And he said, ‘this is no April Fools’ joke, buddy, look out the window.'”

In the confusion of the moment Lane wasn’t initially pressed into action but soon was ordered to report to the ship’s deck. While still working his way up a staircase, a Marine lieutenant tried to stop him but Lane quickly and forcefully brushed past to make his way outside. Many of the men left behind below deck would die in the attack. It wouldn’t be the first time that day that fate steered Lane to safety.

Read his full story on Fox News.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Stories

Who: Jim Carter
Age at the attack: 20

“I was there,” Jim Carter recalled, choosing his words slowly. “I was working in the dispensary on Ford Island and was doing mess cooking duty when those planes came down and attacked the battleships.”

The dispensary was quickly turned into a triage area for injured sailors, and Carter said he went from cooking duty to carrying patients.

“Our mess hall had men laying on tables — wounded guys from the Arizona. I was helping take the worst ones from the mess hall over to the dispensary. There were guys with sores all over their legs from the bombs. It was a mess.”

Read the full story on News Leader.

Who: Charles Sehe
Age at attack: 18

Pearl Harbor survivor Charles Sehe, 92, was nearly killed on board the USS Nevada during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and continued to serve on the battleship when it aided in the invasions at Normandy and Iwo Jima during World War II. So at age 92, he decided it was time to make his first visit to the state the ship was named after.

Read the full story on the Chicago Tribune.

pearl harbor stories from survivors

Who: Leo Priest
Age at attack: 21

Priest, who turned 21 the day before the attack, was stationed at Camp Malakole with the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment of the California National Guard.

When his regiment arrived on the island in September 1940, the men lived in tents while they built the infrastructure of the camp.

“We were breaking up coral rock with rock crushers to make gravel and rock for roads and build foundations for the barracks. We finished the barracks a few months before the attack.”

Read the full story on USA Today.