Charles W. Winkler, Pearl Harbor Veteran

August 15, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,

Charles William Winkler Jr., a retired Baltimore County employee who witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor while serving as a crewman aboard a Navy tugboat, died of Alzheimer's disease Tuesday at Good Samaritan Nursing Center. The Cub Hill resident was 93.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Reservoir Hill and Gardenville, he attended Baltimore parochial schools.

He joined the Navy at age 18 in 1934 and served aboard the USS Lexington, Chicago and Bobolink. In early December 1941, he was given the choice of remaining in Hawaii, where he was stationed at Maui, or returning to the mainland. He chose to stay and was reassigned to the naval base at Pearl Harbor. He took his new job the day before the Sunday morning attack. He wound up fighting fires and moving crippled ships aboard a tugboat, the Hoga.

"He arrived at Pearl Harbor and was assigned to another tug and was sent to the Hoga during the bombing because most of its crew were on liberty," said a daughter, Deborah W. Healy of Baltimore.

"As Winkler and his shipmates made their way topside, they witnessed the ferocious Japanese attack on the United States Navy," said a 2001 article about him in The Avenue News. "Their tug was berthed between a battle cruiser and a tanker, both of which were on fire.

"If you can imagine 350 planes coming at you at one time," he said in the article. "They were everywhere."

He recalled fighting the fire that consumed the battleship Arizona, but he and the Hoga's crew saw that another ship, the Nevada, was in danger of sinking and blocking the 40-foot-wide channel.

"They bombed the hell out of us," he said in a 1991 Baltimore Sun article.

They repositioned the Hoga to move the Nevada out of the channel.

"Just as we got to the Nevada, the Arizona blew up. There were thousands of gallons of gas and oil and ammunition. We would've been gone," he said.

He spent the rest of the war serving in the South Pacific.

In 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, he was honored at the Naval Academy, where officials presented him with a medal for his service.

He remained in the Navy until 1954, when he retired, but he spent 10 years in the Naval Reserve. He then worked at Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point and joined Baltimore County's Parks and Recreation Department. He worked in Cockeysville as a foreman before retiring in 1984.

Mr. Winkler was an avid gardener and nature lover. He kept a cabin in Western Maryland.

"His yard was like a park setting," his daughter said. "He gardened until he was 90. He was very creative. He could do anything. He was a take-charge person."

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 9 a.m. today at St. Ursula's Roman Catholic Church, 8801 Harford Road.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Charles Gregory Winkler of Baltimore; two brothers, Paul Winkler of Hancock and Louis Winkler of Glen Burnie; two sisters, Dorothy White and Lillian Walters, both of Baltimore; two granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter. His wife of many years, the former Mildred E. Evanko, died in 1980.

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