PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — Ira "Ike" Schaub had just showered, changed into a clean sailor's uniform and closed his locker aboard the USS Dobbin when he heard the call for fire rescue crews.
He looked up to see the USS Utah overturned and Japanese planes in the air. He sprinted below decks to grab boxes of ammunition and joined the daisy chain of sailors feeding shells to an anti-aircraft gun above. He remembers that at the age of 21, he weighed only 140 pounds (63.50 kg), but somehow he mustered the strength to lift boxes that weighed almost twice that much.
“We were very shocked. Shocked and scared to death,'' Schaub, now 103, said at his home in Beaverton, Oregon, where he lives with his daughter. "We didn't know what was going to happen and we knew that if anything happened to us, it would just be this."
Eighty-two years later, Shaab plans to return to Pearl Harbor on Thursday to remember the more than 2,300 soldiers who died on the anniversary of the attack. He is expected to be one of six survivors at a ceremony commemorating the attack that plunged the United States into World War II. The actual number may fluctuate, depending on how many vulnerable men are able to participate.
The aging pool of Pearl Harbor survivors is shrinking rapidly. that's it for now a crew member Lou Conter, 102, of the USS Arizona, California, is still alive. Two years ago, survivors participated 80th anniversary The age of remembrance was between 97 and 103 years. This time they will be even older.
David Kilton, the National Park Service's chief of interpretation, education and visitor services for Pearl Harbor, said that over the years survivors have often come forward voluntarily to share their experiences with visitors to the historic site. This is no longer possible.
"We can be the best storytellers in the world and we can't really hold a candle to the people who have shared their stories firsthand," Kilton said. "But now that we're losing that generation and they're no longer with us, it's transformed the opportunity to reflect even more on the sacrifices that were made, the stories that they shared."
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not keep statistics of how many Pearl Harbor survivors are still alive. But department figures show that of the 16 million people who took part in World War II, only 120,000 were still alive as of October and an estimated 131 die every day.
Military historian J. According to a rough estimate compiled by Michael Wenger, there were approximately 87,000 military personnel on Oahu at the time of the attack.
Schaub never talked much about Pearl Harbor until about a decade ago. Since then he has been sharing his story with his family, student groups and history lovers. And he has returned to Pearl Harbor several times since then.
The reason? "To give respect to those who could not succeed," he said.
Thursday's ceremony will be held on a field across the harbor from the USS Arizona Memorial, a white structure that sits atop the rusting hull of the battleship, which exploded in a ball of fire and sank shortly after being hit. More than 1,100 sailors and Marines from Arizona were killed and more than 900 were buried inside.
A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55 a.m., the same time the attack began on 7 December 1941.
Dobbin lost three sailors, according to navy records, One was killed in action and two later died of wounds caused by bomb fragments in the stern of the ship. Everyone had anti-aircraft guns in their hands.
That Sunday morning had started peacefully for Shabab. He was hoping to visit his brother, who was also in the Navy and was assigned to a naval radio station in Wahiawa, north of Pearl Harbor. The two never met together that day.
Schaub spent most of World War II with the Navy in the Pacific, visiting the New Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu, and then the Mariana Islands and Okinawa.
He was never injured. He told Best Defense Foundation an online interview He must have had a guardian angel three years ago.
"You're horrified, but you flounder as events happen and hope everything will work out," he said.
After the war, he worked as an electrical engineer at General Dynamics on the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the Moon. In retirement he volunteered as a state park attendant in Malibu, California, explaining the migration patterns of monarch butterflies.
A tuba player in the Navy, Schaub remained with his bandmates long after the war. For decades, they organized annual reunions, said their daughter Kimberly Henriques.
Scab has slowed down in recent years. But he still gathers every week for cocktails on Zoom with young members of his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi. He drinks cranberry-raspberry juice.
These days, Henriques said, he's happiest listening to big band jazz and audiobooks and meeting new people.
At this age, he is still grateful to be able to return to Pearl Harbor. Henriques is accompanying him along with caregivers. the family has one gofundme account So that they can help in raising funds for the pilgrimage.
"Just grateful I'm still here," Schaub said. “That's really how it feels. Thankful."
Rush reported from Beaverton, Oregon. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York contributed to this report.