East Texas Pearl Harbor Survivors Recall The Attacks - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/7/04-Tyler

East Texas Pearl Harbor Survivors Recall The Attacks

Sixty-three years ago, more than 2,000 Americans lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. Tuesday morning East Texans gathered to honor the memory of the fallen and pay respects to the few remaining survivors.
Though their eyes are dimmed with the age of time, each of the men paying tribute to those who did not make it from the waters of Hawaii remember that day clearly and vividly.
"I remember the planes coming in," said Pearl Harbor survivor Ben Blackmon. "Before they dropped the first bomb, I thought I had never seen so many planes in my life, but I thought at first they were our planes."
Most of the men present at the ceremony were only 18 and 19 at the time, transferred into brave men in an instant one Sunday morning.
"We were setting up church when the word was passed to man your battle stations, this is no drill," said Joe Fritcher.
"It was about 7:55 when they dropped the first bomb," said Ben. "The bugle started blowing a call to arms."
"There was 400 and something odd off the California that was killed," said Joe. "It was heartbreaking. It was a disaster, to see everything, 9 battleships, everyone of them couldn't even move. It was a sneak attack and of course afterwards we were all mad about it, that hurt us."
"Luckily none of us were hurt," said J. Lee Dillingham. "Our feelings were, but it was a bad day, a real bad day."
"That was a heart rendering situation at that particular time," Ben recalls, "because I was just like everybody else, I was scared. The Lord spared me that day."
In the 63 years that have past, the number of survivors dwindles, but those remaining say they want to tell the story so the country never forgets.
"The younger generation should really realize what was done for them back at that time," Joe said.
Ben Blackmon, wants young Americans to remember the sacrifice and always be prepared.
"I just want them to remember it in their deeds and their actions and their minds," he said. "Remember what their responsibility is also. The same as ours was on December 7, 1941, because one of these days they may be called to defend our country themselves."

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com

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