Le­gion post com­mem­o­rates 75th an­niver­sary

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Max Siegel­baum

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.

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