PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Two veterans traveling with Honor Flight Nevada to Pearl Harbor can remember the last times they visited Pearl Harbor, one of the Navy’s premier bases that came under attack from Japanese pilots more than 77 years ago.
Dayton residents Edward Tremper, who is one of 20 veterans on a five-day trip to Hawaii, and his adopted daughter, Lori Schierholt, reflected on the visit to the USS Arizona, one of the battleships destroyed during the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
The 93-year-old Tremper, who also served during the Korean War at Chosin Reservoir, sailed into Pearl Harbor twice during his military career and both aboard troop ships. His first visit came in December 1944 with 5,000 Marines, and the second on November 1950 with 2,500 Marines headed to the Korean peninsula.
Both Tremper and Schierholt said the trip to Hawaii has been emotional but none more emotional than the visit to Pearl Harbor.
“Some of the battleships were still there, but the airfield was cleared,” Tremper recalled of his first visit.
As Tremper and his fellow Marines stood silently as the troop ship sailed through Battleship Row, they still saw oil oozing to the surface from the Arizona.
“Amazing,” Tremper said of the 1,177 sailors who perished on that day. “Those kids never had a chance. It is emotional.”
About 900 sailors remain entombed in the mighty battleship.
“I can’t imagine how they felt,” Schierholt said of the men who were trapped and knew time ticked against them. “It was emotional thinking about all those young men.”
Tremper, who grew up in New Jersey and enlisted on July 24, 1944, belonged to the 1st Marine Division. The fight for Okinawa began April 1, 1945, and after the war, many Marines from Tremper’s division went to China to disarm Japanese soldiers still on the mainland.
“They didn’t know the war was over,” he said.
After visiting the memorial, Tremper said it was a devastating time for the United States to be put into that position by that surprise attack.
Navy veteran Bruce Robison of Reno served on the USS St. Louis, a Brooklyn-class light destroyer. Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack, the St. Louis began transporting civilians from Pearl Harbor to the mainland.
“You could throw a rock out there and it wouldn’t sink. The oil was this thick,” Robison said, using his thumb and forefinger to about 2 inches. “I still remember them (retrieving) a lot of corpses out of the harbor.”
Robison, who was accompanied on the trip by nephew Lee Robison, said the St. Louis was also one of the first ships able to leave Pearl Harbor without suffering damage. Sailing from Pearl Harbor, he said the St. Louis encountered two miniature Japanese submarines, but the sailors fired the ship’s big 6-inch guns at one of the subs.
“The ship was known as ‘Lucky Lou’ because it was the first one out,” Robison said, who also served on the USS Grapple.
“It’s a definite time for the United States to be put in that position by the surprise attack,” said Lee Robison. “It was a horrible way to die … there was confusion and fear.”
Bruce Robison said he was thankful he wasn’t at Pearl Harbor on the fateful day.
“I was fortunate enough to be in school when the war started, so I missed the horrible tragedy by being there. Now, I think I was pretty fortunate,” he said.
Both Robisons said the ceremony to honor the sailors aboard the USS Arizona was very emotional and thoughtful.