Yuma veteran shares story about surviving Pearl Harbor
Story by Stephanie Sanchez, Reporter - bio | email
Yuma--For one Yuma veteran, the dark moments from the Pearl Harbor attack remains embedded in his mind.
He was aboard the USS West Virginia that Sunday morning in 1941.
John Chapman- a navy veteran said he was able to dodge bullets and bombs because he knew way around the USS West Virginia very well.
Chapman was just 18 years old when a Japanese torpedo ripped through the battleship he was on.
He is now 90 years old and the sights and sounds of the attack remain vivid in his memory.
"I think of it many times at night...wakes me up every time," Chapman said.
He is one of the few pearl harbor survivors still alive today in Yuma.
Hundreds of Japanese warplanes attacked the home base of the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.
The Japanese planes hit, sunk or severely damaged eight U.S. battleships, including the USS West Virginia which Chapman was on at the time.
"Every time I hear some rattling or when I go to a hotel and I hear the elevators moving if we are close to them," he said. "I think we are being bombed again."
Friday marks the 71st anniversary of the devastating Japanese attack that pulled the United States into WWII.
Chapman knew exactly what he was doing when it happened.
"I was picking up my liberty card at the time. I was suppose to leave the ship at 8'o clock but there was no leaving the ship that day because we got the 1st torpedo in about 10 minutes to 8," he said. "....then from there we had 9 torpedoes."
Over 2-thousand service members and 49 civilians were killed in the attack.
"When word came to abandon ship. I told the men if they were to listen to me. I would get you out of here because I use to weigh all the fire extinguishers on the ship," he said. "I knew every compartment on there and what hatchets to open up to get out of there."
Chapman said when he finally got out of the ship with fellow comrades, he was able to swim to a nearby rescue boat.
The following day congress declared war against Japan.
"I was very, very lucky," he said.
The 90-year old Pearl Harbor veteran has visited local high schools to share first hand experience about Pearl Harbor.
"Its trying to keep the memory up," Chapman said. "because it should not be forgotten."
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