WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — On December 7, 2016, it will be exactly 75 years since Japanese troops began their attack on Pearl Harbor, and sunk the USS Arizona, among other ships. A Rhode Island survivor of the attack on the Arizona, Master Chief Petty Officer Raymond J. Haerry, was honored Tuesday for his service in the U.S. Navy.
Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse presented Haerry with awards including a certificate of recognition at his residence at the West View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in West Warwick.
Haerry was 19 years old when the attack happened. 1,177 officers and crewmen were killed in the explosion and sinking of the Pennsylvania-class battleship. The Arizona wreckage remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, with hundreds of the dead — beneath a memorial museum. Haerry is one of six USS Arizona survivors still alive today.
Haerry doesn’t consider himself a hero, however. And Haerry’s son, Ray Jr., said it’s hard for him to talk about what happened that infamous day. “I remember being blown off the ship,” said Haerry.
“The explosion was tremendous. It literally blew the bow off the USS Arizona. My father said he felt the ship lift entirely out of the water,” said Ray Jr. “When he made it to Ford Island he found a 50 caliber machine gun emplacement. He manned that and continued to fight.”
Six USS Arizona survivors are still alive, and there was a push to raise funds to have them all attend the 75th anniversary at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Haerry’s son says his dad can’t make the trip at his age, but he does have a plan to return to the Arizona for his final resting place.
He’ll have a military funeral at the USS Arizona museum, with his ashes buried inside the ship alongside the 1,100 USS Arizona sailors who didn’t make it out that day.