Pearl Harbor Survivor Alvin Mays Dies at 96
More than 76 years ago, the United States suffered the loss of more than 2,400 lives on the devastating morning of December 7, 1941. From the Pearl Harbor attack there emerged people who would go on to become pillars of their communities and well-known figures. One such man was Alvin Mays. For many years, the Pearl Harbor survivor shared his story with residents of Augusta, Georgia. On October 10, 2018, the southeastern city lost one of its last living links to the attack.
Alvin Mays passed away at the age of 96, leaving behind incredible stories that he was always eager to share. It all started when he enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the 21st Infantry, 24th Division. He was only 18 years old when he enlisted, and he was immediately assigned as a mechanic at Pearl Harbor. At the time, his position didn’t require basic training. “That was very unusual, but they were just motorizing their infantry at that time,” Mays explained in an interview with The Augusta Chronicle on the 76th anniversary of the attack.
According to the infantryman, he was on base at Schofield Barracks when the attack began. Though the barracks didn’t receive the brunt of the attack, it was adjacent to Wheeler Field and was peppered with machine gun fire as the Japanese planes flew overhead. “I just had walked out of the mess hall that morning and heard all the bombing and everything sounding off at a distance,” Mays told the Chronicle. “They came in striking the 21st Infantry at treetop level and lucky for us, we did not have any casualties that morning.”
After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the War in the Pacific, Alvin Mays was deployed to Australia and then to the Philippines, where he fought on the front lines against the Imperial Japanese forces. He survived the war and returned home, and though time passed, his memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor did not.
Alvin was always involved with his community, and was known for his willingness to share his story of the events of December 7, 1941. In one account, he spoke of the widespread fear of Japan’s ability to overrun Oahu. “If they’d have been smart they would have invaded the whole island. They could have took it in 24 hours,” he stated.