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Radio man who sent word of Pearl Harbor attack dies

BILLINGS – Ed Chlapowski, the man who notified the world that Pearl Harbor was being bombed by the Japanese, has died at 88.

The former Navy radio man died Sunday at his home in Billings a few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, his family said.

At a 2009 commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chlapowski told the Downtown Billings Rotary Club his story about the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that propelled the United States into World War II.

He said he had worked an early watch at the submarine base, had eaten breakfast and had just sat down on his bunk in the barracks when he looked out the window and saw a hangar roof blown away. Then he saw the Japanese planes.

“The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just as it still does today when I think about it,” Chlapowski said.

Chlapowski said he ran to the radio room, where he knew the crew was short on Sundays. A supervisor handed him a message, and in Morse code, he sent out word that Pearl Harbor was under attack.

He said he saw the smoke begin to rise from the USS Arizona after she took her first hit. Then, at 8:06 a.m., a bomb struck the ship’s starboard side, about where Chlapowski’s duty station was.



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