Pearl Har­bour at­tack: Sur­vivor, 97, re­mem­bers ‘day of in­famy’

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - As­so­ci­ated Press

HONOLULU:RE­TIRED US navy com­man­der Don Long was alone on an an­chored mil­i­tary sea­plane in the mid­dle of a bay across the is­land from Pearl Har­bour when Ja­panese war­planes started strik­ing Hawaii on De­cem­ber 7, 1941, watch­ing from afar as the bombs and bul­lets killed and wounded thou­sands.

The waves of at­tack­ing planes reached his mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion on Ka­neohe Bay soon af­ter Pearl Har­bour was struck, and the young sailor saw build­ings and planes start to ex­plode all around him.

When the gun­fire fi­nally reached him, set­ting the air­craft ablaze, he jumped into the wa­ter and found him­self swim­ming through fire to safety.

Now 97, Long will re­mem­ber the 77th an­niver­sary of the “day of in­famy” from his home in Napa, Cal­i­for­nia.

Long was fresh out of boot camp when he ar­rived in Hawaii in 1941. “I got off that ship with my sea bag over my shoul­der and we threw it on a truck and they carted me over to Ka­neohe from Pearl Har­bour where we had landed,” Long re­called.

It was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence when he flew to Hawaii for the 75th an­niver­sary in 2016, a trip that was paid for by a sur­vivor’s group.

“We came in on a first-class United char­tered jet,” he re­mem­bered. “We ended up not in a bunk in the bar­racks, but in a very nice ocean room at the Hawai­ian Hil­ton.”

He at­tended a din­ner where sur­vivors were seated at ran­dom with dig­ni­taries. At his ta­ble were Ja­pan’s Honolu­lubased con­sul gen­eral and his wife.

“He and his wife were there in full re­galia,” Long said. He asked if they might be able to help him iden­tify the pilot who at­tacked his plane 77 years ago.

“They did some search­ing I guess, or told some­body to do it, but within a month or so I got a mes­sage from them and the proof is not pos­i­tive but they sent the in­for­ma­tion on three Ja­panese pi­lots. It was prob­a­bly one of those three,” Long said. All three have died, but Long was im­pressed the con­sul gen­eral had taken the time to find out.

Long no longer har­bours ill will against Ja­pan or its peo­ple.

“I don’t know when that feel­ing left me. But as you are prob­a­bly well aware, we were taught to hate those peo­ple with all our hearts, and when you’re look­ing at one down a gun sight, you can’t re­ally feel much love for any­one - that’s for darn sure,” he said. “That has long since changed.”

To mark the event this year, Long plans to visit school­child­ren to talk about the Pearl Har­bour episode, then will light a bea­con atop Mount Di­ablo in Concord, Cal­i­for­nia.

AP

In this De­cem­ber 7, 1941 photo, smoke rises from the bat­tle­ship USS Ari­zona as it sinks dur­ing the at­tack on Pearl Har­bour.

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