'Last man club' vets remember Pearl Harbor

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Sixty years ago Friday, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. 2,390 people died in the attack. Friday, local veterans focused on the survivors. News on Six reporter Emory Bryan has the story.

It's been sixty years, but these survivors of Pearl Harbor have a salute as crisp as the day they enlisted. Friday they saluted those lost in 1941 - and said a prayer of thanks that they survived. Jim Jenkins, Pearl Harbor survivor: "I woke up the world was shaking, I went outside to see what as going on and there was an airplane coming down already, the first plane, on fire, and it crashed over by the hospital." When the attack started - Jim Jenkins was on Ford Island - asleep. He jumped out of his bunk - just in time. "I noticed a bullet hole in my tent that came down through the bunk I just got out of so that was one close call I had."

Most everyone who witnessed it - did not understand, at first. Jay Jernigan, Pearl Harbor survivor: “I saw those airplanes coming in and I was wondering why?” Today - age - and infirmity is the greatest threat to these men who made it through Pearl Harbor. Their "last man's club" is getting smaller. With every passing day, memories fade from the middle of the battle. Eddie Alford, Pearl Harbor survivor: “I thought it was just a drill, we was tied alongside when the Arizona was torpedoed and they had to chop us loose or we would have sunk with her.”

But with every day of remembrance, this small club gathers with other veterans of foreign wars - to share their stories of survival. “Everybody on the parade grounds was shooting at airplanes with those old bolt action rifles and everybody was in their underwear out there shooting at airplanes. Everybody thought it was a practice drill, but once those bombs started falling on the ships everybody knew something else was wrong.”