In Memoriam: Pearl Harbor Survivors We Lost in 2017
Just over seventy-six years ago, the United States suffered the loss of more than 2,400 Americans in a devastating attack that would force the nation into World War II and change the world forever.
Sadly, with each passing year the nation loses more of the brave servicemen who survived the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
In 2017, the nation bid farewell to at least 24 of these men.
Jan. 12, 2017
Burggraaf served aboard the USS Nevada (BB-36) as an electrician’s mate at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. When the first bombs fell, Burggraaf was present at the Waikiki LDS Ward for a priesthood meeting. After the attack, he remained with the Nevada and had a hand in performing temporary repairs.
Before it was dissolved in 2011, the former Nevada sailor was a member of the Utah chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Stuart “Bud” Sweeney
Jan. 28, 2017
The last known Sheboygan County (WI) Pearl Harbor survivor, Sweeney was serving at Wheeler Airfield when the Japanese bombs started to drop. In the midst of the chaos, Sweeney worked to supply P-40 Warhawk fighter planes with munitions for a US counterattack.
After the war, Sweeney continued flying as a private pilot and continued to connect with local veterans every Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Feb. 8, 2017
At the time of his passing, Bashrum was a resident of the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in Pineville, LA. More than 75 years prior to that, he served aboard the USS New Orleans (CA-32) during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
March 16, 2017
In 2012, Carl Clark was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Though Clark was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the long-overdue honor was awarded for the bravery he exhibited during a kamikaze attack on his ship, the USS Aaron Ward (DM-34), in 1945. Sadly, racial prejudice meant that his heroism would go unrecognized for more than 65 years.
March 26, 2017
Survivor of the USS Nevada, Linn joined the Navy shortly before graduating high school. By the age of 20, he had earned the rank of Navy Petty Officer aboard the ill-fated battleship. Linn's eardrums were ruptured during the attack, but he continued his naval service until the end of the war.
For 40 years after his return home to Nebraska, Linn worked as an engineer for Northwestern Bell Telephone company.
April 18, 2017
Simmons served aboard the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16), a battleship that, prior to the attack, had been converted to a target ship. When the vessel started to take on water, Simmons managed to escape through a porthole and swim to safety.
Thomas C. Talbott
April 23, 2017
At the time of the attack, Talbott was a noncommissioned officer in the US Marine Corps. When the Japanese forces attacked, Talbot was on guard duty at a drydock in the harbor. Throughout the remainder of the day, he rescued injured sailors from the fiery and oily waters of the harbor.
Harold “Smokey” Stover
May 13, 2017
Only a year into his service with the US Navy, Stover was given his first taste of battle with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During the attack, Stover was a seaman on shore at the coal docks, though he would join the crew of the USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) after her return the following day.
Throughout the attack, Stover rescued sailors who had been forced to abandon their ships. Stover was also present at the Battles of Midway, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater.
May 21, 2017
Before surviving of the Pearl Harbor attack, Smith was a renowned baseball player who just one day before the assault was enjoying time on the field during two intra-Navy baseball games. Within 24 hours, he was immersed in unexpected horror aboard the USS Tennessee (BB-43).
In the years after the war, Smith returned to Pearl Harbor to pay his respects to those that were lost during the 1941 attack.
July 3, 2017
Art Wynant gave as much as he could to his fellow Pearl Harbor survivors by becoming a founding member of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in Shasta County, CA. At the time of his passing, he was one of only two members of the chapter left.
At the time of the attack, Wynant was serving as a quartermaster aboard the USS Medusa (AR-1). Though the Medusa wasn’t hit, Wynant recalled several torpedoes coming dangerously close.
July 3, 2017
At the time of his passing, Gene Meeker was one of the Tulsa, OK area’s last remaining survivors. When the Japanese launched their deadly attack, Meeker was serving at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. Though he acted quickly, by the time he made it from the barracks to his squadron hanger, much of the aircraft had already been destroyed.
Meeker later found himself serving at Guadalcanal and other islands in the Pacific and served in the Navy until 1947.
July 15, 2017
Greenleaf was attending a two-week machine gun school at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Inexperienced with the weaponry they were studying, Greenleaf and fellow students fed ammunition to the Marine Corps instructors who manned the weapons.
After being discharged in 1943, Greenleaf joined the Merchant Marines.
Clarence “Smiley” Bonn
July 28, 2017
Bonn was one of the founders—and the last living member—of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, an organization created to reunite the survivors of the attack. While strolling the tarmac at Wheeler Field on December 7, 1941, Bonn saw the incoming planes. The moment he realized that the planes were Japanese and they were dropping bombs, he dove under a nearby house.
In 1958, he organized the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in hopes of prompting other survivors to gather for yearly organized reunions.
Aug. 11, 2017
Seelie was remembered as the last surviving veteran who was present at the attack on Wheeler Army Airfield.
At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Army at Fort Hayes in Columbus, OH and became part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 65th Engineer Combat Battalion. When the first Japanese aircraft attacked Wheeler Field, he had just reported to the adjacent Schofield Barracks.
In May of 2017, Seelie traveled to New York City for a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, making him the only known Pearl Harbor survivor to visit the site.
Aug. 18, 2017
Hayes was the last living crewman from the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 2016, he made the trip to Baltimore, MD in order to see his historic vessel again. His return visit to the ship he served aboard more than 70 years prior made headlines, and was an emotional journey for the aging veteran.
Rolla “Ed” Malan
Aug. 19, 2017
At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Malan was asleep, though his slumber wouldn’t last. Assigned to the USS Preble (DD-345), his vessel was being overhauled and was ill-equipped for defense. Unable to fight back, Malan and his fellow crewmates helped wherever they could.
In September of 2016, Malan returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time since the end of World War II.
Sept. 15, 2017
During the attack, 17-year-old Barbosa served as a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Raleigh (CL-7). Despite the terror he felt, the young sailor didn't hesitate to man an anti-aircraft gun on the ship’s deck. After surviving the attack, Barbosa served in the European Theater, participating in the Invasion of Normandy as a crewmember on the troop landing ship LST 157.
Earl Michael “Mike” Schaeffer Jr.
Sept. 16, 2017
Though he was scheduled to have the day off that Sunday morning, Schaeffer was hard at work at Hickam Field. At the time of the attack, he was only 18 years old and was covering the work duty for a fellow soldier who had an engagement in Honolulu. Schaeffer was armed with only a Winchester shotgun, and though he knew firing on the planes was futile, he did so anyway.
Later that evening, he helped man the bomber that unsuccessfully attempted to track down the Japanese strike force that had launched the assault.
Sept. 17, 2017
When the attack began, 20-year-old Cavanaugh was serving aboard the USS Hovey (DMS-11), which was about 20 miles out from Pearl Harbor.
Altogether, Cavenaugh spent 69 months at sea and earned the Good Conduct and American Defense Medals, along with the Philippine Liberation, American Area Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Area, and World War II Victory ribbons.
Sept. 20, 2017
23-year-old Louis Moran served aboard the USS Honolulu (CL-48) on the fateful Sunday morning of December 7, 1941. Stationed in the engine room, Moran was in a prime location to become trapped on the ship, but luckily the Honolulu didn’t suffer extensive damage.
Moran and his ship were supposed to take part in the invasion of Leyte, but a Japanese torpedo struck the Honolulu and took her out of service.
Sept. 22, 2017
At the time of his death, Furrer was the last known Lewis County, WA Pearl Harbor survivor. When the attack started, Furrer was on the roof of his barracks on Ford Island, taking care of his laundry. He immediately realized what was going on and who was responsible for it.
After the attack, Furrer and his squad took part in the clean-up efforts around the harbor before being ordered to patrol the island for any enemy aircraft.
Charles “Chuck” Mitchell
Sept. 28, 2017
Mitchell had been assigned to the USS Honolulu for only two weeks when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. During the attack, he was working below deck as a powder man, a position that nearly got him killed when a Japanese bomb barely missed the hull, piercing the dock and causing a flood to trap the sailor. He remained a member of the Honolulu until she was taken out of service, at which point he was assigned to the USS Adams (DM-27).
Nov. 13, 2017
A future president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Burleson was working in a nearby hospital when the first signs of the attack began unfolding just outside. When a Japanese plane crashed near the hospital, Burleson was quick to help putting out the fire despite being “scared to death,” and shaken by the realization that Pearl Harbor was under attack.
Nov. 5, 2017
Aboard the USS Bagley (DD-386), Coles, then 17 years old, experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor and his first taste of battle. Coles manned a .50 caliber machine gun and received credit for downing two Japanese planes during the two-hour attack.
Coles served 30 years in the Navy and, in 2016, received donations amounting to $13,000 to finance a return visit to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary of the attack.
Spurgeon D. Keeth
Dec. 28, 2017
At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Keeth was working in the kitchen at Schofield Barracks and was stunned to see incoming planes with the tell-tale red dots marking them as Japanese. He went on to serve in the Pacific Theater, including in the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands Campaigns
Although he rarely talked about of his experiences at Pearl Harbor, he did speak of his military career, including surviving a gunshot that missed him from only 9’ away. In the years after the war, Keeth became known for his volunteering efforts.
Note: We've done our best to account for all of the survivors who passed away in 2017. If you know of anyone we missed, please let us know in the Comments.