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Pearl Harbor vets share memories, wisdom

May 7, 2009 6:14:44 PM PDT
Some World War II Navy veterans were treated to a tour of the Great Lakes naval training facility on Thursday. They were all survivors of Pearl Harbor.And they got a chance to see how the modern Navy works. But it was also a chance for younger sailors to learn from the veterans.

They are seven survivors of Pearl. Seven among roughly 1,000 nationwide who are still with us. In their late 80's and 90s now, but the years have not dimmed their recollections.

"Kids being blown up. Vehicles being blown apart," Ed Block, Pearl Harbor survivor. "You don't forget."

Ed Block was 21 when he survived Pearl Harbor. He would survive again a few years later when his destroyer was sunk in the Pacific.

"It got sunk right there. Ten thousand feet of water," said Block. "I swam for 57 hours in the water and I prayed a lot."

Ed wonders - sometimes with tears - why he's survived and mates did not.

On Thursday, Ed, his fellow survivors and family members got a look at today's Navy with a tour of of the USS Trayer, a full scale destroyer model used to train recruits at Great Lakes. Much of that training is based on modern day threat, what we learned from the attack on the USS Cole.

But this day is also a chance for the young to learn from those who's experienced the worst.

"It makes me appreciate even more going out into the field to do the same thing," said Petty Officer Tyronne Downing, Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

"They know they're going to be in trouble, and I admire them for it. I see these kids and I admire them very much," said Ambrose Ferri, Pearl Harbor survivor.

"I'm 88 -almost 89 and are numbers or deteriorating," said Ralph Laedtke, Pearl Harbor survivor.

When they are gone, so will be the firsthand story telling, though some of the survivors have done oral histories. They regularly talk to schools, but they are concerned - as a group- that not enough history is devoted to what they survived. They want a simple message top live after they're gone.

"Don't forget Pearl Harbor. Remember Pearl. Don't forget it," said Laedtke.


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