Theodore's World: Pearl Harbor Survivor Returns to Site for First Time Since War

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December 07, 2009

Pearl Harbor Survivor Returns to Site for First Time Since War

Pearl Harbor Survivor Returns to Site for First Time Since War

FOX News

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Ed Johann will always remember the sound of planes diving out of the sky to bomb U.S. battleships, the explosions and the screams of sailors. He still recalls the stench of burning oil and flesh.

The 86-year-old retired firefighter is due to return Monday to Pearl Harbor for the first time since World War II to attend a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack.

"I really don't know how I'm going to handle it," said Johann, from his home in Oregon. "When I think about it, all I have is unpleasantness. I'm sure it's not like that now."

Johann was a 17-year-old apprentice seaman on Dec. 7, 1941. He had enlisted in the Navy only five months earlier so his parents, who picked and packed tomatoes and other crops in California's San Fernando Valley, wouldn't have to support him.

He and two other sailors were waiting to ferry passengers on a small boat to and from the USS Solace, a hospital ship that was moored in Pearl Harbor, when they saw the Japanese planes.

They first thought they were U.S. aircraft conducting drills until they saw explosions and flames from the stricken ships.

Johann's motor launcher boat rushed to the USS Arizona, which was hit by several bombs, one of which struck her forward ammunition magazines and set off a massive explosion. Already fueled and manned when the attack began, their 30-foot boat was the first rescue vessel to arrive at the scene.

They found the water littered with people — some wounded, some dead, some unharmed. Many were covered in the leaking oil from the ships.

They loaded as many as they could and delivered them to the hospital ship before returning to the USS West Virginia for more.

"As we're pulling them out of the water, a lot of times the skin would come right off the arm," Johann said. "They would just be black with oil, except maybe you could see the white of their eyes."

The planes kept coming. Dive-bombers plunged out of the sky, dropping bombs and strafing the water and ships with machine gun fire before roaring back up for another round. Torpedo bombers flew in level to drop their submersible weapons for underwater assaults.

The burning, sinking vessels at first lowered men into Johann's makeshift rescue boat. But some sailors started to panic and jump into their small ship, forcing it to pull away so it wouldn't sink too.

"Some of the sailors would be like in shock and some of 'em would be like going out of control, screaming and hollering," Johann said.

The next morning — after nervously worrying the Japanese planes would return — Johann's boat unloaded men from the Solace who failed to make it through the night and delivered them to land.

"We had them stacked like cordwood in our boat. The open end where the feet was sticking out was these big brown tags that said 'unknown, unknown,"' Johann said. The military hadn't adopted dog tags yet and many couldn't be identified.

The attack sank four U.S. battleships and destroyed 188 U.S. planes. Another four battleships were damaged, along with three cruisers and three destroyers.

More than 2,200 sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed.

"We didn't survive by any skill," Johann said of his boat. "It was just luck, pure luck. Because all we were concentrating on was trying to save people, and not save ourselves."

Johann served the rest of the war on the USS Wright, a seaplane tender. After 1945, he returned to California where he worked in sawmills before moving to Portland, Ore. where he spent 28 years as a firefighter. He retired to a beach cottage in Lincoln City and where he served on the city council, helping build hiking trails and campaigning against domestic violence.

Every Fourth of July, he goes to bed early to avoid the fireworks because they remind him of Pearl Harbor's explosions. Even so, the blasts keep him awake.

But the horrors he went through also led him to become a firefighter.

"I think I had it in my mind," Johann said, "I wanted to help people."

For years, Johann said he wouldn't go to the annual observance in Hawaii in honor of those killed in the attack. But now that he's 86, it seemed liked a good idea.

"If I'm ever going to do anything like that I'd better do it now," Johann said. His son, who lives on Maui, will accompany him.

Organizers expect between 40 and 50 survivors of the attack to come. Overall, some 2,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on a pier overlooking the spot where the Arizona sank.

The bodies of more than 1,000 sailors and Marines are still on board, and small drops of oil continue to rise from the battleship.

Wild Thing's comment...........

Gob Bless Ed, all who served and all who remain on station below.

On March 7, 1950, Admiral Radford, CINCPAC, ordered that an American flag be flown from Arizona's remains.
Nine months later, on the ninth anniversary of the attack, he had a plaque placed on the wreck, making it the first Arizona Memorial. The bronze plaque states: "May God make his face to shine upon them and grant them peace."

....Thank you Mark for sending this to me.

3rd Mar.Div. 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment
1/9 Marines aka The Walking Dead
VN 66-67

Posted by Wild Thing at December 7, 2009 05:47 AM


Today is a day that should NEVER be forgotten by anyone. It has been 68 years since it happened and so many young men and women died protecting a tiny strip of American soil. I didn't have any relatives at Pearl, I did have one survive Midway.

Posted by: Lynn at December 7, 2009 08:03 AM

Let us not forget those that were either killed or wounded in this sneak attack on the United States.

Let us not forget that we had a second devastating sneak attack on Sept. 11, 2001, by Islamic terrorists. I fear we will have one more before America wakes up and this will come from the enemy within. Systematic destruction of our military and freedoms by liberals in Congress following Obama’s lead toward a NWO with one world governance. Don’t let history repeat itself.

Posted by: Bob A at December 7, 2009 08:53 AM

Afterwards we turned up THE HEAT over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eh? By the way libs and peacenics, was the Bataan Death March equal to the GITMO... waterboarding?

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at December 7, 2009 11:12 AM

Trouble is these survivors are getting fewer and fewer by the year and soon their will be nobody to testify as to what really happened. As now the kids are being taught left-wing revisionist history.

I don't know who said it, it has been attributed to Harry Truman, but who knows. After dropping the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, What he felt, He said, " good afterall, he never heard any apologies for Pearl Harbor."

Colonel Paul Tibbets, who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, said, " he never had any trouble sleeping, it was the right thing to do." Maybe obama ought to read a little American History, before his next apology tour.

In fact, it feels just like Pearl Harbor day, today, 'There's a little Nip in the air.'

Posted by: Mark at December 7, 2009 12:20 PM

I hope Ed can clear his mind after this trip to Pearl Harbor. As Mark states, there are fewer and fewer WWII vets remaining. Their grandchildren are growing up in a different world. Not necessarily a better world. The WWII generation is taking with them a commitment to honor that is being lost now.

Posted by: TomR at December 7, 2009 01:22 PM

Let's never forget about Pearl Harbor, those who died suddenly or those entombed to die the slow death of suffocation or those who died from terrible burns.

Not one word about Bataan, not one word about the beheading of POW's by the Japanese on all the islands where Americans fought, not one word about the summary executions of Americans held on Japan's mainland.
No mention of prisons like Hoa Lo Prison, Son Tay or the many jungle prisons holding U.S. captives, nothing about the lack of medical care, starvation and brutality even murdering of U.S. and allied prisoners.
All attention has been focused on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons where the enemy did get medical care, special food and clean living quarters.

Forgotten too are those prisoners left behind in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
Beginning February 13, 1973 through April 1973. During this period, 591 POWs were released to U.S. authorities; this included a few captured in Laos and released in North Vietnam. U.S. President Richard Nixon announced that all U.S. servicemen taken prisoner had been accounted for. That's it, a damned proclamation by the president followed by the sealing of their fate by the Democratic Church-Case amendment and the commission of the duplicity twins, Kerry and McCain.
At that time, the U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and sought the return of roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. The low numbers of returnees from Laos caused some immediate concern, as previous Pentagon estimates were as high as 41 for prisoners held there, although only a few had been known to be captured for certain.
At the end of the Vietnam War, there were 2,583 unaccounted for American prisoners, missing in action or killed in action/body not recovered. As of October 1, 1998, 2,079 Americans are still missing and unaccounted for, over 90% of whom were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia where Vietnamese forces operated during the war, though 468 were at sea/over water losses: Vietnam - 1,552 (North, 564; South, 986); Laos - 446 Cambodia - 75; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters - 8.
That is a piss poor record Congress, from a 64 years of piss poor Congressmen.

Posted by: Jack at December 7, 2009 02:17 PM

Jack, I agree, I did not catch much news on
TV today at all. I didn't hear anything
mentioned about any of what you said or
Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 7, 2009 11:37 PM

Lynn, I am so glad you had someone that
survive Midway.

Thank you everyone for commenting and sharing
about Pearl Harbor. I agree, so few are still
around from this.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 7, 2009 11:39 PM

Japan has still not apologized for Pearl Harbor. I'm surprised Obama hasn't apologized to the Japs for getting Hawaii in the way of their bombs.

Our nation is in a sad, sorry state, with ratbastard commies in charge.

Posted by: Billy Ray at December 9, 2009 12:39 AM