On Sunday, the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Stars and Stripes STA bus delivered its precious cargo to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
The five remaining military members of the Lilac City Pearl Harbor Survivors Association had come to honor their fallen comrades at the new Pearl Harbor Survivors Memorial.
As the military survivors, civilian survivors and widows of survivors stepped off the bus, the assembled crowd burst into applause. And when the crowd caught sight of Ray Garland, still fit and trim at 92, wearing his Marine uniform, shouts of “Oorah!” and “Semper Fi, brother” rang out.
This small band of brothers is all that remains of the once 125-member Lilac City Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Joining Garland were George “Bud” Garvin, Clyde Buteau, Charlie Boyer and John “Sid” Kennedy. They range in age from 99 to 91, but the memories of Dec. 7, 1941, are forever etched in their minds.
Four of them and the two civilian survivors, Betty Schott and Bob Snider, shared their pivotal, enduring memories of that day.
Bud Garvin: “The sight of the burning planes …”
Garvin was a 26-year-old Army lieutenant living adjacent to Wheeler Army Air Field when he went outside for the morning paper. “I saw a guy running down the street. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, ‘Take cover! Take cover! We’re under attack.’ ”
Befuddled, Garvin stood there in his pajamas, clutching the newspaper. Then he saw the first wave of planes heading toward hangars across the street from his house.
“Our airplanes were sitting wingtip to wingtip on Wheeler Field,” he said. The Japanese pilots “strafed them with machine guns, setting them all on fire.”
Garvin was in charge of several hundred soldiers. They took up their positions along the coast and waited. “We expected a land invasion,” he said.
Though that invasion never came, Garvin went on to see more than his share of action, including Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge. He was in Germany when the war in Europe ended, making him a witness to both the beginning and end of World War II.
Charlie Boyer: “The planes were coming over us, shooting at us and dropping bombs.”
Boyer, a 21-year-old sailor stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe, was on transportation duty. He’d just dropped some people off at church and was on his way back when he saw planes approaching fast and low.
“I said, ‘Boy, that’s quite a show the Army’s putting on!’ Then I saw the big ol’ red meatballs on the wings, and I said, ‘Army, hell!’ ”
Boyer pulled off to the side of the road and took cover under the truck. At the end of the day, he got word of the extent of their losses.
“They did a hell of job,” he said. “They got every warplane on Kaneohe.”
Ray Garland: “I watched the Arizona blow up. I watched the Oklahoma turn upside down.”
Garland was part of a Marine security detachment aboard the USS Tennessee, at anchor on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. The 19-year-old was on watch that morning.
“I looked over my shoulder and saw planes coming in. They were spraying fire at all the ships as they went down,” he recalled.
Garland scrambled to his gun station. “My station was facing the Arizona. I watched it blow up.”
As he ran, he saw the Oklahoma list and turn upside down. More horror awaited: The West Virginia was tied up next to them. Two bombs rocked the Tennessee and the debris hit the command deck of the West Virginia, killing its captain.
Garland had no time to process these sights. The ships were anchored so closely together that burning oil from the Arizona engulfed the stern of the Tennessee.
“I manned a fire hose, trying to keep the fire from spreading,” he said.
Badly burned in the effort, Garland was sent to sick bay.
“That was the end of Pearl Harbor for me,” he said. “I couldn’t see for three days. I sat in a corner with bandages over my eyes. There were so many worse off than me. I just didn’t want to leave the ship.”
Eventually, Garland was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service in World War II and Korea.
“On Dec. 7, 1941, I was burned by the Japanese,” he said. “On Dec. 5, 1950, I was shot in the leg by the Chinese at the (Battle of) Chosin Reservoir.”
Sid Kennedy: “They told me, ‘Get out the back door and get those people inside, now!’ ”
Kennedy was in sick bay after a minor foot surgery at Naval Air Station Kaneohe. The 18-year-old sailor had just finished breakfast when the first wave of planes began their assault. From a window, he saw a Japanese plane soaring across the bay. Six people stood outside watching the action, and Kennedy heard someone yell, “Get those people back inside!”
He shrugged. “So I went out and got them. I slammed the door. Bang! Bang! Bang! I heard the machine gun fire hitting the door.”
The morning passed in a blur as he helped move wounded to the operating room. “Unfortunately, I had to move bodies to the morgue, too,” he said. “It was a very long day.”
Betty Schott, wife of Petty Officer Warren Schott: “The noise. The horrible, horrible noise.”
Betty and her husband Warren, now deceased, lived in an apartment on Ford Island, just up from Battleship Row.
“We were used to noise,” Schott recalled. “But the noise I heard that morning is like nothing I’ve heard before or since.”
The roar of the incoming planes woke her, and she looked out the bathroom window. “Warren!” she called, “There’s smoke and fire at the end of the runway.”
Her husband didn’t believe her at first, but at her insistence, he looked out the window. “He saw a Japanese plane fly right past the window and bomb the Utah,” Schott recalled.
“Betty,” he said. “We’re at war!”
Bob Snider, civilian dependent: ‘A Japanese bullet missed my father by inches.’
Snider was a third-grader. His father was a civilian aircraft mechanic working at the military bases on Oahu.
“The destroyers were anchored in front of our house,” he recalled. “I saw the dive bombers come down and do their thing.”
He watched the attack from the pier in front of their home until his father called him in and they watched the commotion from their lanai. That’s when a stray Japanese bullet came through the house, narrowly missing his dad.
“That shook us all up,” Snider said.
His mother covered him with a mattress and huddled with him, while his dad left for Hickam Field.
“My father said, ‘Don’t come out ’til it’s over,’ ” recalled Snider. “My whole world got silent. I was scared then.”
He still has a piece of shrapnel he collected from his yard.
On Sunday, he and the other few survivors in Spokane listened quietly as a bugler played taps at the Arena. They startled at the sound of a 21-gun salute. And then, one by one, they removed the red and white floral leis from around their necks and laid them at the 7-foot granite memorial stone.
Each paused for a moment, lost in memories of that horrific morning 73 years ago.
Charlie Boyer spoke for them all when he said, “I hate to think about that day, but I do – I do quite often.”
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