PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, USA — Each generation has its defining moment, that one day in history where something so memorable happened that one remembers where he or she was when he or she heard about it.
For today’s generation, it was the September 11th attacks. For others, it was the day President Kennedy got shot, and for the generation prior to that, it was Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor memorial (Beth Pond/YJI)
Dick Rodby, who was born and raised in Hawaii, was a 10-year-old boy when the Japanese fighter planes attacked the naval fleet stationed in Honolulu.
That fateful day in December was nearly 66 years ago, so few living people were actually there when it happened. However, Rodby remembers that morning as if it was yesterday.
Rodby is a civilian survivor and works at the visitor’s center at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Rodby and a handful of other survivors, all of whom wear a dark green collared shirt and a survivor pin, share their stories with tourists.
December 7, 1941 – the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said would “live in infamy” – will be etched in Rodby’s mind forever.
Describing the chaos after the Japanese plans struck, Rodby said, “Men were running around, some with clothes, some without.”
According to Rodby, communication were cut off. “We didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
Rodby, who was still a little choked up by the memories, said that people are very appreciative of him for sharing his story.
Everett Hyland, former radioman 3rd class, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in November of 1940. Hyland was serving on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania the morning of the attack.
“I wasn’t sightseeing,” Hyland said. “We had a job to do.”
Hyland was severely wounded in the attack. He was nearly killed when a Japanese bomb exploded near his battle station. Hyland was awarded seven campaign ribbons during his military career, including the Purple Heart.
Hyland, who was born in Stamford, Connecticut, said that young men had a great sense of duty back then. According to Hyland, he decided to enlist because “everyone was doing it”.
As for his advice for future generations, Hyland says “Don’t buy anything with a handle. It requires work.”
Both Hyland and Rodby are two brave and inspirational men, whose stories are not only about tragedy, but also about hope.
By volunteering at the visitor’s center of the memorial, these men share their memories with tourists, so that no one will ever forget the thousands that died in service to their country.
The Arizona sits just below the surface at Pearl Harbor. (Beth Pond/YJI)