In Memoriam: Pearl Harbor Survivors We Lost in 2018
Each year, the number of living survivors of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor grows smaller and smaller, making it more important than ever to hear and share their stories.
The United States bid farewell to the following servicemen in 2018:
Firman J. Balza
October 10, 2018
Firman Balza, another Wisconsin native, served aboard USS Maryland (BB-46). He rarely spoke of his experiences during the attack on Pearl Harbor until he visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, at the age of 80. It was there that he realized that he had a duty to educate others about what happened all those years ago. For the next 15 years, he did just that. Balza was 95.
Walter S. Barsell
September 24, 2018
Nebraska native Walter Barsell was on shore duty on December 7, 1941, having been reassigned from USS Astoria (CA-34) just days previously. He continued his service at Pearl Harbor for another two years, before returning to sea in the Battle of Okinawa. Barsell, who was 97 when he died, left behind nine children and many other descendants.
September 14, 2018
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Robert Beaudreau was stationed aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48). After his ship was torpedoed, he managed to crawl across the line attached to USS Tennessee (BB-43), where he helped the other sailors fighting back against the attackers. Beaudreau was an enthusiastic member of West Virginia's baseball team, playing left field. His passion for physical fitness stayed with him from his early youth right up to the time of his passing at the age of 98.
September 9, 2018
James Bilotta had been a member of the United States Marine Corps for two years at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, and he remained in the service until just after the war ended. At the time of his death, at age 98, Bilotta was the oldest resident of Derry, NH. He is survived by his wife of 71 years as well as four generations of descendants.
November 20, 2018
William Breland served in the Army Air Corps, and was stationed at Hickam Field adjacent to Pearl Harbor during the attack. After that fateful day, Breland continued serving in the military until 1960, when he retired with the rank of Major. After leaving the service, he moved to Jackson, MS, where he worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Breland was 100 years old at the time of his passing.
November 21, 2018
For several years, Ray Chavez held the distinction of being the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor. At the time of the attack, Chavez was serving as quartermaster aboard USS Condor (AMc-14), a minesweeper. He and his crewmates were the first to spot the periscope of a Japanese midget submarine that was attempting to enter the harbor a few hours before the aerial attack began. After the war, Chavez became a voice for Pearl Harbor survivors and an active member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Chavez was 106 years old when he died.
March 22, 2018
At the time of his death at the age of 95, Bob Cunningham was the last Pearl Harbor survivor of Kern County, CA. Cunningham was serving aboard USS Vestal (AR-4) at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. He served four years as a gunner’s mate, from 1941 to 1945.
April 22, 2018
Clarence Davis served aboard the repair ship USS Medusa (AR-1) at the time of the attack on December 7, 1941. He's believed to be the last surviving member of the Maryland Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. The chapter disbanded about five years before his passing, at the age of 94.
February 13, 2018
Jim Downing earned the distinction of being the oldest published author when he wrote about his experiences at Pearl Harbor, aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48), and his naval career in the Pacific Theater and beyond. The Colorado Springs veteran was 104 when he died and was the second oldest Pearl Harbor survivor.
August 20, 2018
Ray Emory was stationed aboard USS Honolulu (CL-48) when the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of the first to fire back on the attackers, manning a 50-caliber machine gun. Later in life, the longtime Hawaii resident became very active in the identification of remains of USS Oklahoma (BB-37) casualties buried as "Unknowns" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Emory was 97 years old when he passed away in Boise, ID.
Melvin F. Fisher
June 17, 2018
Melvin Fisher of Jones Valley, CA was a member of the Shasta County’s Pearl Harbor Survivors Chapter 28. He often told of his experiences aboard USS Whitney (AD-4) during the Pearl Harbor attack. At the time of his death at the age of 96, Fisher was the last known Pearl Harbor survivor in Shasta County, CA.
December 13, 2018
Harold Garrish was known as the “Armistice Baby,” having been born on the same day World War I ended. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7 1941. After retiring from the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, Garrish had a very active retirement, including skydiving to celebrate his 97th birthday, and taking ballroom dancing lessons right up to the time of his passing at age 100.
February 8, 2018
Dewey Jay, a Bowie, TX native, was stationed at Hickam Field during the Pearl Harbor attack. After his military service, he spent many years as a member of Faith Tabernacle in Oklahoma City, serving as both usher and deacon. He was 97 years old at the time of his passing.
October 29, 2018
Gerald Langgood was only 15 years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, serving aboard USS Shaw (DD-373). After his age was discovered, Langgood was returned to his home in Buffalo, NY, but he reenlisted two years later, after he turned 17. After a long life, during which he commemorated the Pearl Harbor attack each year by tossing a wreath in the water near his home, Langgood passed away at the age of 92.
January 25, 2018
Stan Lieberman was one of two Pearl Harbor survivors left in South Dakota at the time of his death. For his service as an aerial photographer for the Air Force, Lieberman was honored at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Lieberman captured the destruction after the attack. He was 100 years old at the time of his passing.
March 2, 2018
Serving aboard USS Chew (DD-106), Elmer Luckett was topside when the Pearl Harbor attack began over Battleship Row. Luckett was a beloved figure, known for recounting his experiences at Pearl Harbor. He was also a regular participant in Pearl Harbor Day commemorations. He was 97.
October 10, 2018
Alvin Mays was stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu during the Pearl Harbor attack. Serving as a mechanic in the 21st Infantry, 24th Division, Mays was sent to Australia and afterward to the Philippines, where he saw combat. Before his passing, at the age of 96, Mays was well-known to residents of Augusta, GA for sharing stories of his wartime experiences.
July 27, 2018
Stationed aboard USS Helena (CL-50), James Murdy, a native of Pennsylvania, survived the Pearl Harbor attack and went on to serve in the Navy until March of 1946. In his later years, Murdy was active in the Lehigh Valley Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, sharing his experiences at area schools. 100 years old at the time of his passing, Murdy is survived by his wife of 72 years, their two daughters, a granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters.
May 5, 2018
A native of Baldwinsville, NY, Larry Parry was an Army mechanic stationed on Oahu. On the morning of the attack, he was enjoying a game of football when he saw the Japanese planes heading toward Pearl Harbor. In his later years, Parry was active with the Greatest Generation Foundation, returning to Pearl Harbor twice, in 2014 and again in 2016. He was 97 at the time of his passing.
William C. Puissegur
June 1, 2018
Bill Puissegur was aboard USS Maryland (BB-46) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Later, he would serve in battles across the Pacific at Iwo Jima, the Philippines, and Okinawa. Puissegur and his wife Antoinette went on to have eight children. He was 96.
May 5, 2018
Lou Radil was one of Nebraska’s last remaining survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor when he passed away at the age of 98. He escaped from the torpedoed USS California (BB-44) and went on to serve in the Pacific through the end of World War II and beyond.
November 21, 2018
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Marvin Rewerts was a gunner’s mate serving aboard the destroyer USS Thornton (DD-270). In August of 1945, Rewerts was aboard a different destroyer, USS Borie (DD-704), when she was hit by the last kamikaze plane of the war. He was 96.
September 26, 2018
An Army Air Corps mechanic, Kenneth Sweet was stationed at Wheeler Field at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. He had just come off all-night duty when the bombs and torpedoes began falling. After spending the war repairing aircraft, Sweet returned to his native Wisconsin where he helped found the Wisconsin Air National Guard, in which he served for over 30 years. He was 96 years old at the time of his passing.
January 11, 2018
Joe Triolo served aboard USS Tangier (AV-8) at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the last surviving member of the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Up until his death at the age of 97, he had attended all Pearl Harbor observances held in Des Plaines, IL.
John “Jack” Vaessen
February 22, 2018
Jack Vaessen of San Francisco served aboard USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. After the target ship was struck by torpedoes, Vaessen stayed below decks working to keep the lights on so his fellow crewmen could escape. He became trapped in the ship for hours before rescuers cut a hole in the hull. Towards the end of the war, Vaessen was aboard USS Haynsworth (DD-700) when a kamikaze plane struck it. Once again, the electrician risked his life to keep the lights on to enable others to escape. He was 101 years old at the time of his passing.
September 15, 2018
South Dakota lost its last remaining Pearl Harbor survivor when Steve Warren passed away at the age of 97. Warren was originally supposed to have served aboard the ill-fated USS Arizona (BB-39), but before shipping out for Hawaii, he was reassigned to a seagoing yacht, later commissioned as USS Elvida (YP-109).
October 14, 2018
Edward Waszkiewicz was serving as a Navy Fireman at Pearl Harbor when the attack began. From his position near the oil tanker USS Neosho (AO-23), he had a close-up view of the devastation as it happened. Waszkiewicz stayed in Hawaii for another six months, and after more firefighting training, remained in the service until 1962.
Note: We've done our best to account for all of the survivors who passed away in 2018. If you know of anyone we missed, please let us know in the Comments.