Pearl Harbor veteran recalls bewilderment of attack

Tue Dec 6, 2011 2:05pm EST
 
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By Suzanne Roig

HONOLULU (Reuters) - Seventy years ago this week, Navy veteran Lou Gore was startled by the muffled thuds of explosions and a burst of commotion while cleaning up from breakfast below deck on the USS Phoenix, a cruiser docked at Pearl Harbor.

Hurrying topside, the 18-year-old seaman second-class was confronted by pandemonium he was unable to immediately comprehend -- flames shooting skyward, roiling clouds of dark, acrid smoke, swarms of fighter-bombers buzzing low overhead.

Within moments that Sunday morning, it became clear that the U.S. Pacific fleet was under attack. As reflexes from training took over, Gore and others aboard the Phoenix jumped into action and began firing back with anti-aircraft guns.

"We didn't know (at first) those were Japanese planes," Gore, now 88 and visiting the islands with nine members of his family, recalled in a recent interview. "We didn't know what was happening. I just did my job."

Gore is one of 100 aging Pearl Harbor Survivors who will attend ceremonies on Wednesday on Oahu marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese air and naval assault that claimed 2,390 American lives and drew the United States into World War Two.

Nearly half of those who perished were sailors aboard the battleship USS Arizona, which Japanese torpedo bombers sank early in the attack, sending 1,177 of its 1,400-member crew to their deaths.

The USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of the ship, now forms a centerpiece of the World War Two Valor in the Pacific National Monument, an historic site administered by the National Park Service.

'BODIES EVERYWHERE'   Continued...

 
<p>Eighty-eight-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Louis E. Gore speaks to Reuters about his experiences in World War Two in Honolulu, Hawaii December 3, 2011. REUTERS/Marco Garcia</p>