“The Japanese planes were so close that day, we could have hit them with potatoes,” said Pearl Harbor survivor Joe Whitt, recalling a day he said he will never forget; they are memories that have not grown dim with time. “I had just turned 18 years old and had been in the Navy only 11 months when I found myself on the USS San Francisco on that ill-fated day, Dec. 7, 1941. The memories of that day are forever embedded in my brain, the loud noises, the screams, the USS Arizona exploding and the battleship Oklahoma turning over. None of us that survived were ever the same after that day.”
Whitt will be among the Pearl Harbor survivors honored at a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony in New Richmond on Sunday, Dec. 6. The 2 p.m. ceremony will be held at the Market Street School, located at 212 Market Street in New Richmond.
"Whitt and the other survivors are living history; we are losing more and more of them every year," said Director of the Clermont County Veterans' Service Office Dan Bare, who will also take part in the event. "This Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to tell these brave individuals thanks for all they have done and all they have sacrificed."
Whitt recalls running onto the deck of his ship armed with a rifle, a WWI helmet flopping on his head, taking aim at the attacking planes overhead. "After the attack ended, we pulled so many from the oily waters; so many burned, so much pain and suffering, so many barely clinging to life," said the 86-year-old Monroe Township man. On that December morning in 1941, more than 2,400 Americans died and thousands of others were injured in the surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
"When the Japanese planes moved in, they sounded like a swarm of bumble bees," Whitt said quietly.