Edward Hammond remembers the Dec. 7, 1941, sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. It hurled the U.S. into World War II.
“I knew we were at war,” Hammond, one of a dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors who are still alive, said in a telephone interview from his home in Deerfield Beach, Fla. He’ll turn 93 on Dec. 10, three days after the 75th anniversary of the attack.
He said he remembers watching Japanese planes drop bombs from 30 feet as they flew through the Southeast Loch channel. “The airplanes were coming right through,” he said. “Torpedo planes came in first. Slow-flying planes. They could have been fighter planes….
“I just had to get out of there, and I had to get to my battle station. I went to the place where the rifles were stored.”
The next thing he knew, he and three others were shooting at the planes. “Shrapnel was all around us,” he said. “It just didn’t hit us.”
As officers shouted, “Take cover!” he and the others kept fighting. “We were 17 or 18 years old,” he said. “We knew no fear. They crippled our fleet.”
When the smoke had cleared, 2,335 American servicemen were dead: 2,008 navy personnel, 109 marines and 218 army. Sixty-eight civilians were also killed. Another 1,143 servicemen and civilians were wounded.
Hammond, a chief machinist’s mate in the Navy, was based in the Pacific until the end of the war. After a year at Pearl Harbor and 18 months on Midway Island, he went back to the States, where he boarded a ship that transported troops around the Pacific for invasions of Saipan, Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines.
“We went into the ports to invade the island,” Hammond said. “We were going to fight to the bitter end.”
After the war, Hammond returned to his native Cleveland, where he met Peggy, the woman he married. They had three children.
He worked as a machinist repairing printing presses. “If you’re a good machinist, you know how things are put together and made,” he said. But he said the “happiest times” of his life were when he was a volunteer at the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he delivered interoffice mail until he was 82.
Peggy died in 2012. Their daughter, Colleen Harris, visits him, and he meets regularly with friends at the American Legion Post 162, where everybody knows him as “Pearl Harbor Eddie,” part of the Greatest Generation.
“If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have the type of country we have today,” said Eddie Cruz, 66, a Vietnam War veteran. “We would have lost everything. Everything our Founding Fathers did would have been for nothing.”
A number of events are planned at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center on Oahu to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Day of Infamy, beginning Thursday, Dec. 1. Others are scheduled on Waikiki Beach and at the Hawaii Convention Center, also on Oahu.
Take a Trip: The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Symposium and Tour, sponsored by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, is scheduled for Dec. 1-8. The tour will return to the sites of the attack and will feature historians from the museum, Hawaii Pacific University and experts on Hawaiian and Asia-Pacific history. At this writing, there were 10 spots (out of 100) still available. The cost is $8,995 per person, double occupancy; $10,990 single occupancy. http://www.pearl75.org/symposium-tour/
Veterans honored: Four units comprised primarily of Japanese-Americans will be honored on Monday, Dec. 5, at an 11 o’clock luncheon at the Hawaii Convention Center. For tickets, visit www.PearlHarbor75thAnniversary.com. World War II veterans and one companion can attend for free; Three more family members cost $75 each, and additional family members cost $125 each. General public tickets cost $200.
Strike up the band: From Dec. 1-11, there will be numerous performances by the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific Jazz Combo, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, The Swingin’ Blue Stars and the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band, among others.
Watch a film: Head to Waikiki Beach’s Outdoor Theater at the Diamond Head end of Kalakaua Avenue to watch five famous films: Dec. 2, "Twelve O'Clock High”; Dec. 4, “Run Silent, Run Deep”; Dec. 5, “From Here to Eternity”; Dec. 8, “Sands of Iwo Jima”; and Dec. 9, “The Finest Hours." Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m., film at 7:30.
Join an electronic field trip: Students can participate in a live webcast, “Remember Pearl Harbor – How Students Like YOU Experienced the Day of Infamy,” on Wednesday, Dec. 7, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. It’s sponsored by The National WWII Museum and PBS member station WYES-TV/New Orleans. pearl75.org/electronic-field-trip; send questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.