You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 7, 2019.

by Billy Cox

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The next day, his son Dick called with bad news. Dad, a crew member of the USS Pennsylvania, had suffered a massive stroke and was in hospice care. And it became obvious that he had bottled up his eyewitness account of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “day of infamy” until the very last minute. Dick hadn’t even known his father was at Pearl Harbor.

Now, suddenly, all that was left was a story on videotape, along with Schleicher’s brief explanation for his 73 years of silence: “I didn’t wanna talk about the war. I didn’t wanna have nothing to do with it.”

I can’t remember exactly how many of these folks I’d interviewed over the years, and nobody knows how few are left. When the bombs struck Pearl Harbor, anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 U.S. military personnel were in harm’s way.

John Schleicher, 97, survived the Pearl Harbor bombing because he was in church that Sunday morning. The Nokomis  resident never talked much about serving during WWII and did not even tell his son, Dick, that he had been at Pearl Harbor until a few days before 73rd anniversary of the attack.

To qualify for membership in the exclusive Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, however, veterans had to have been positioned within a 3-mile radius of the attack from 7:55 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941. The PHSA formed in 1958 and enjoyed peak membership in the 1960s, when some 20,000 were paying dues.

Today, with the youngest eligible members approximately 96 years old, PHSA survivors are now as rare as Civil War veterans in the nuclear age.

In fact, the PHSA held its last formal gathering at the USS Arizona Memorial in 2010, then officially folded in 2011. And with just seven members remaining, the San Diego chapter of the PHSA – perhaps once the nation’s largest, with 586 men – finally called it quits in September.

This weekend, the National Park Service expects to host 35 World War II survivors in Hawaii, according to a spokesperson, just 15 of whom saw the sneak attack unfold. “Only a few hundred Pearl Harbor survivors remain,” she stated in an email.

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