Vanishing Veterans

Every year, the survivors of Dec. 7, 1941, grow older and fewer in number. Tomorrow, a ceremony honors the Maryland veterans of Pearl Harbor who died in the last year.

December 06, 2003|By LARRY BINGHAM | LARRY BINGHAM,SUN STAFF

Because he has done it before, and because there are not many others able to do it, 84-year-old Bob Van Druff will read the names of this year's dead at tomorrow's Pearl Harbor anniversary service in Annapolis.

Five years ago, 18,000 Americans who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing were living members of the national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. The number has dropped to 6,060 today. In Maryland, only 128 remain, and the youngest among them will soon turn 80.

There will not be enough time at tomorrow's ceremony for Van Druff, a Pearl Harbor survivor, to say much about the nine men whose names he will read. He will not need to say they lived through the Japanese attack that drew the United States into World War II. He will not need to say each man went on from that day in Hawaii to live a grateful life back home in the States.

The association's motto is "Remember Pearl Harbor - Keep America Alert." By reading each name, Van Druff and other survivors remember those who took a memory of that day to their graves.

Dad's other day

John A. Farrell III was so thankful he survived the raid on Pearl Harbor that he considered Dec. 7 his second birthday.

He was at Mass that Sunday morning, said his son, John "Jack" Farrell IV. "And like everybody else, he had assumed it was some sort of gun or artillery or bombing practice, and they went running outside the church and looked up and saw a Japanese plane and figured out quickly it wasn't a drill."

Farrell had played semiprofessional baseball before he joined the Army during the Depression. He was captain of an anti-aircraft battery at Fort Shafter on Dec. 7, 1941.

Despite the surprise, his men got their guns into position and fired off rounds during the second wave of incoming planes, although he always told his son he didn't think they hit anything. The planes flew low enough that he saw one man taking pictures. Toward the end of his life, before he died March 27, at 88, Farrell considered pursuing the Japanese archives to see if he could find those photos.

He took his own pictures the next day, when a convoy of Army men was sent down from Fort Shafter to help clean up and recover bodies. What he saw, the images of smoke rising from battleship row, stuck with him.

After the service, he worked for a liquor distiller first on Madison Avenue and later as a Washington-area corporate representative. He lived in Kensington.

"Pearl Harbor will always bring to mind, to those of us who survived him, that this was Dad's other day," said his son.

Notes on life

Charles R. "Chip" Stewart was a private person who spoke little of his wartime experience. Though he seldom talked about his service, he kept an account of his life on 5-by-7 note cards, which he stored in an Army green recipe-card box on a desk in his basement in Laurel.

His wife of 56 years, Annabelle Stewart, thought little of the note cards until he died last year on Dec. 4. The Maryland survivors didn't learn of his death until after their ceremony last Dec. 7, so Van Druff will read Stewart's name tomorrow.

On the first card, Stewart says he was born in Waynesburg, Pa., the same town as his wife. On Dec. 7, 1941, he wrote "Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor," but little else. He recorded the day he married; the day Patricia, his only child, was born; the day he was transferred back from Hawaii; the day he left for Germany; the day he left for Korea. In between, he wrote about his career:

"6 May 1942

"Appointed courier for 97th Coast Artillery to handle secret and confidential documents"

"7 May 1948

"Completed 15 years service with the United States Army and the Pennsylvania National Guard"

On the day the Japanese attacked and more than 2,300 Americans were killed, he was stationed at Fort Kamehameha, where he had been since 1936.

"I know he got up early that morning, and he was going to a luau and when he went back to his bunk there were 11 bullet holes in it," said his wife.

He retired after 26 years in the service, as a chief warrant officer, and went to work for Exxon. He enjoyed gardening, carpentry and traveling. The last card in the box says he went to Las Vegas in September of 2000 to visit his daughter.

The box has become hers now.

Buddies to the end

When Van Druff reads the name Harold D. Lyon, he will not have many memories to associate with the name. Lyon was not physically able to attend the Maryland Pearl Harbor Association's quarterly meetings at Fort Meade. When he was well, Lyon went to the annual summer picnic.

Lyon enlisted in the Army along with two high school buddies who were like him: without a job after graduation. The three would stay in touch throughout their lives and have a reunion 60 years later. In 1941, all three were stationed in Hawaii.

Lyon was an artilleryman assigned to Fort Shafter, where the switchboard operator was first told, at six minutes after 7 a.m., that a large formation of aircraft was headed toward the island.

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