Legion post commemorates 75th anniversary
Even after almost 75 years, it’s painful for Jim Doyle, 93, to recount the horror of Pearl Harbor and the war years after: the sound of crocodiles eating human flesh, describing a rainbow to a friend who had his “eyes blown out by an explosion” or the sight of corpses covered in oil and grime bobbing the ocean.
“It was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare,” he said.
But Doyle shares his experiences to educate young people on the horrors of war. At 93, he is one of Denver’s few remaining servicemen who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
For the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Doyle and Luz Valerio, 98, a former Army gunner, will be honored during a ceremony at Denver’s American Legion Post 1 on 5400 E. Yale Ave. Organizers say the ceremony will be one of the last opportunities to honor Denver’s few remaining living Pearl Harbor veterans.
Valerio was in the Army’s Fort Kamehameha on the day of the attack. At breakfast, when the attack started, Valerio ran to the antiaircraft gun he was stationed at. He spent 24 hours firing at Japanese planes until the Army had him pick up body parts of fallen soldiers, said Ed Peters, a relative who takes care of him. Because of health problems, Valerio has difficulty speaking.
Doyle was assigned as aviation photographer’s mate 1st Class. The Meeker native learned to fly a crop duster from a friend of his father’s on the ranch where he grew up. He enlisted when he was 16 years old, when his family could not afford to send him to college.
He had a movie camera and a .30-caliber machine gun to fight off enemy planes when he wasn’t taking pictures, Doyle told a Rocky Mountain News reporter in 1943. He brought down two Japanese planes.
During Pearl Harbor, Doyle was shaken awake by explosions and raced to grab his camera. He spent the battle snapping photos amid the chaos on the ground. Later he hopped in a plane on a reconnaissance mission that almost ended in him getting shot down by friendly fire.
Pearl Harbor profoundly altered the course of American history, thrusting the U.S. into World War II, and it also affected small communities across the nation.
The American Legion Post will continue to honor the survivors and fallen servicemen and women of Pearl Harbor, whether or not they attend future ceremonies.