Tuesday marks 80 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, which launched America into World War II. These days there are only a few survivors remaining, and one of them is Joe Richard of Sunset.
“How can you forget it, it’s something you can never forget,” said Richard. “You want to– but it’s always there.”
At 98 years old, Richard is believed to be Louisiana’s last-living Pearl Harbor Survivor. All these decades later, he still has vivid memories of the attack.
“I first looked out when I heard that noise,” said Richard. “They were bombing. And from the porthole that I looked out, it was directly across from the [USS] Arizona.”
Richard was a sailor stationed on the USS Rigel. He made his way to the top deck when he heard the bombing.
“And when I got up, one passed by and banked up his plane and I saw the rising sun, and he waved at me,” said Richard. “He was sure what he was doing.”
In the days after the attack, Richard went boat-to-boat looking for survivors.
“That was my job to try to get them out.” said Richard, who helped save 33 from the Arizona and 3 form the Oklahoma. “We heard three knocks, so we gave them three knocks back, and we went and got our equipment and came back, and we cut them out. They just had their heads sticking out of the water.”
Years later, Richard even met one of the men he helped save while attending a Pearl Harbor survivors event in Las Vegas.
“We became big buddies,” said Richard. “He didn’t say a damn, but he got up and kissed me!”
For Richard, December 7th has always been a somber day.
“The saddest part is the ones that are still there, that we couldn’t get out. That was the saddest part.”
He hopes younger generations will also pause and reflect about what happened 80-years ago. Richard will do so in New Orleans, where he’s set to tour the World War II museum and take part in Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies.
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