In Shasta County there is still a small hand full of Pearl Harbor survivors around today. The group gathers every year on December 7th to share a moment of silence to remember all those who were lost. In an effort to preserve their legacy, action news sat down with these four men several months ago.
They are all now in their 80's or 90's, but these men who survived they attack on Pearl Harbor, were just boys on December 7th, 1941. As you can imagine, the experience completely changed their lives.
They remember the attack like it was yesterday.
“The first thing you heard, I am sure most everybody, was the explosion of the Arizona, that woke me up,” said Melvin Fisher, a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
Four different Shasta County natives, still alive today, experienced the devastation first hand.
“I could see all the planes coming in, dropping bombs and torpedoes, and I was headed to my battle station above the bridge,” said Hilton Reynolds, a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
“I did not know, but i saw the planes flying over and they were flying real high and there were probably about 15 of them following one another. then all of a sudden, they started to peal off,” said Mike Sotak, a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
The Japanese attack caught American forces completely off guard. There was mass confusion at its start and it took a while for many to understand they were even under attack.
“After we saw the red ball on the wings of the plane, we realized they were not ours and then we saw what was happening, they were dropping torpedos and dropping bombs, and we saw it was the Japanese hitting us,” said Robert McCullough, a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
They jumped into their battle stations, trying to defend their ships.
“All the amo was locked, if you had a 5 inch gun up there, you had amo but it was all locked in a cabinet,” said Melvin Fisher.
“We took a lot of machine gun bullets, we did not get bombed, we had bombs 40-50 yards off of our bow, but they missed,” said Hilton.
“All of a sudden, by that time the smoke was so think that you could not even see your hand in front of you and all of the water was on fire because of the oil and then the oil caught fire,” said Mike.
The fire was coming from the U.S.S Arizona where 1177 people died one of the ships hardest hit by the attack.
“Well after the Arizona explosion, there were lots of explosions but nothing like that… we were able to see the arizona, she was on fire, she burned, she burned for 3 days that i know of,” said Melvin.
But the carnage was not limited to just the Arizona
“All these bodies that were floating around in the water, and then the oaklahoma, there were a lot of sailors in the ship and you could hear them pounding in there to try to get out,” said Mike
The entire ordeal was one that shaped the lives of those involved.
“All i remember is that that changed my life, i realized that we had to get in and do what we can, whatever was necessary,” said Robert.
“As a 17 year old kid, i would say that it changed my life considerably, we had a terrible time accepting what happened, you would see the ships all burning up as we were going out, and bodies floating in the water, considering the fact that there were over 3000 wounded and killed that day, it took quite a while for me to get over that, quite a few years,” said Hilton.
This group of Pearl Harbor survivors in Shasta County has dwindled in recent years. They once had over 30 members but now, you just heard from the four that are remaining.
But their stories of the day that went down in infamy, will always be remembered.