For a few, Pearl Harbor still a vivid memory
By Ron Barnett, USA TODAY
Jim Morgan was sleeping a little late on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
His mother, Beryl, had tried to wake him up at about 7:30, but the 9-year-old, whose family lived at the Navy base at Pearl Harbor, didn't stir until she came back about 25 minutes later.
He got up just in time to witness history out his bedroom window.
"I said, 'Look, Ma! There's a fire at the submarine base.' "
At that same moment, Russell Meyne was sitting down to a plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs in the mess hall at Pearl Harbor's Hickam Air Base, 2 miles away. He was hoping to revitalize himself after a night of drinking beer with his buddies, celebrating their selection to a group that would be heading to the mainland for flight training.
Suddenly, everything changed.
"The table almost bounced up and down, and all the pots and pans in the kitchen started falling on the floor," said Meyne, an Army private at the time, now 91 and treasurer of the South Carolina branch of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
"Then the bombing got really exciting."
Meyne and Morgan are among a dwindling number of people who can talk firsthand about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. As the 69th anniversary is marked today, it coincides with a week-long meeting of the national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
LETTERS: DNA on notes helps ID Pearl Harbor victim
'DYING OFF': Pearl Harbor survivors ponder organization's end
The group's numbers have dropped so low, the possibility of shuttering it was discussed at the Honolulu convention, which runs through Friday. Association President Art Herriford on Monday said about 100 members decided against disbanding. Instead, the association will have four district directors around the country instead of eight.
Out of 60,000 servicemembers on the island during the attack, the association estimates only about 3,000 survivors still participate in chapters scattered across the country.
"This convention is all-important for the Pearl Harbor survivors," U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Jim Donis, 91, of Palm Desert, Calif., said before Monday's meeting. "This is going to be the first time we talk about when we want to shut down the national organization."
Meyne, who lives in Irmo, S.C., plans to be in Charleston Harbor, at the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier today for a special day of remembrance.
Not that he needs reminding. He remembers every detail.
"We had a front-row seat," Meyne said.
He says he and a buddy loaded their rifles — it was all they could think to do at the time — and started shooting at a plane that was coming down smoking. He never knew whether he hit the plane, but he says it slammed into a building and killed four people.
None of the members of Meyne's company was among the 2,402 U.S. servicememembers who lost their lives that day, but he saw what happened to others who weren't as lucky.
"The guys in the harbor, when they tipped those battleships over and dumped all that oil on the water and the oil caught on fire — oh God, it was a mess," he said.
Meyne recalls the sight of soldiers running on the airfield, trying to move some of the airplanes as the Japanese planes peppered them with machine-gun fire.
"Man, they just got mowed down like wheat," he said.