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At the Pearl Harbor lunch, all but a few veterans are gone

Sandra Anderson Mathis sat at the head of the table at the Barn Door restaurant when the clock read 11:55 a.m. and the guests bowed their heads in silence to mark the moment when the United States entered the Second World War.

Mattis sat where his father, retired Air Force Major Richard Anderson, would have been if he had lived to see another Pearl Harbor Day. But part of him was here: his pearl of the Pearl Harbor Association, a framed photo and memories.

"This is a wonderful way to celebrate your legacy, your life," said Mathis, who described Anderson as an incredible father and a humble, noble, hard-working man who loved his comrades from Pearl Harbor. "He would never seek recognition, and he was always very quiet about his experiences of war, but he loved the camaraderie here because these men went through this together, and they were children, not men."

Blind and wearing hearing aids that amplified the words but often made them more difficult to understand, Anderson was failing at last year's lunch, part of a group of men who were contracting more and more on the ground floor of the Second World War.

San Antonio Chapter of Pearl Harbor Survivors The Association had a solid list of 64 members a quarter of a century ago. Now they have been reduced to four.

Most of the 42 people at the Red Barn on Thursday were family and friends of the Pearl Harbor veterans who had come to greet their loved ones. Only two veterans of the battle were there. William St. John, 96, and retired Tech Sgt. Kenneth Platt, 95 were in a good mood, more than normal in a year where both have fought against the disease.

Veteran John Buchanan was at another event, while Gilbert Meyer, who served aboard the USS Utah, was thought to be observing the 76th anniversary of the attack in Hawaii.

Army retired Major Virgil Lee Ward, who is not a member of the association but was at lunch last year, was not available.

Anderson and Leo Wally died this year, while another veteran, Bill Hayes, moved into a nursing home. The assistants were not sure if he was alive.

"The thing is that it's part of life, but you develop a relationship with these men and unfortunately you only see them once a year, and the only other time is when the family says they are," said Irene Hernández, who coordinates the lunch

"That's why it's important to keep alive the memory of the attack with all the children and grandchildren, we always put our invitations" Do not forget ", because we do not want to forget about that".

The waves of Japanese fighter jets that roared over Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,330 American sailors, soldiers and marines. It was the first in a series of Japanese victories in the Pacific. When the Philippines fell, the brutality of Tokyo to the United States and the Allied prisoners was so horrible that it gave rise to war crimes trials after Day V-J. The tide of war changed after the Battle of Midway in mid-1942.

Platt was fast asleep in his bunk in the Schofield barracks when the bullets of Japanese machine guns crashed through a window one meter away . He quickly crawled under his bed.

"I still think about what they did," he said, but added that there is no anger. "None at all."

A first-class radio, St. John had just left work with a fellow sailor, Woodrow Strauss, at a newly established air station in Kaneohe Bay surrounded by three towers that rose 180 feet when the attack began. They saw one plane after another throw their bombs in the distance.

"It was the midnight shift, so I was up and was looking askance at one of the Japanese pilots," he recalled. "The only reason he did not shoot me was because he had a tower that he had to climb over and over, so he had no chance to shoot me, and he would have ripped me in half."

Johnnie Singleton was drinking coffee and making cinnamon toast in the officers' pantry aboard the USS Maryland when the bombs hit his ship and the nearby USS Oklahoma. He left now, but his wife, Rosa, and his sister, Della Elam, sat down at a table to honor him.

"It was lucky," said Rosa Singleton, 76, of San Antonio, "that he was here."


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