Museum remembers Pearl Harbor veterans

Museum remembers Pearl Harbor veterans

The education coordinator at the Virginia War Museum in the city of Newport News hopes more WWII veterans tell their stories.

The Virginia War Museum held its annual Pearl Harbor Memorial on Saturday, during which stories of World War II veterans, such as that of Everett Johnston, were retold.

Everett Johnston was 19 years old on Dec. 7, 1941. He was enjoying his free time, waiting on the deck of the USS St. Louis for shipmates to join him for a round of touch football. Then he saw the planes, the bomb-filled aircraft freshly arrived from Japan.

His ship launched minutes after the first torpedoes were fired despite several of its boilers being down for maintenance and cleaning. Its goal was to escape while taking down as many planes as it could.

Johnston was a gunman, a job that was especially difficult that day because the powder for the guns had to be carried from five decks below since the power was down.

“As fast as you’d load, you’d fire,” Richard Zick remembered his friend Johnston saying, as quoted in the Daily Press, “The guns were hot to the touch.”

Johnston passed away, but his story got to be told at a 2008 presentation for the 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The PowerPoint of that presentation is one of the only documents from World War II the Veterans for Foreign Wars Post 4639 has from its 135 members who served in the war.

The education coordinator at the Virginia War Museum in the city of Newport News, Chris Garcia, hopes more WWII veterans tell their stories so the future can know about the war from these first-hand experiences. “You can get 30 or 40 perspectives — everyone’s is different,” he said, “But between all of them, you can get the truth.”

Today, there are about 2,500 members of the recently (2010) disbanded Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, according to the foundation’s former (final) president William Muehleib.

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