Sanibel resident attends Pearl Harbor Survivors Reunion in Texas
Eugene Spencer made a trip to the Lone Star State this week. He and his wife Evelyn travelled to commemorate Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Spencer is attending the 66th annual Pearl Harbor Survivors Reunion in Fredericksburg, Texas from Dec. 4-7.
The event is being held in Texas because the distance to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is too far for many of the now elderly veterans.
He is thought to be the only Pearl Harbor survivor on Sanibel.
Fredericksburg is the home of the USS Nimitz and the Museum of the Pacific.
Spencer, 96, has lived on Sanibel since the mid 1970s after retiring.
Though there is considerable space between the attack on Pearl Harbor — 67 years — and now, Spencer hasn’t forgotten when a storm of bombs ripped through the nation’s warships on the early morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
The Japanese military surprise attacked Pearl Harbor. The attack left more than 2,400 dead, nearly 200 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included almost 10 damaged or destroyed battleships, according to eyewitnesstohistory.com.
The event brought the U.S. into World War II.
“That morning was a terrible morning,” Spencer said. “The boats were floating in oil. The people were jumping from the ships into the water.”
At the time of the attacks, Spencer was a first class petty officer aboard the USS Dobbins, a destroyer ship.
Spencer and those aboard watched helplessly as the battleships got pounded with bombs. The USS Dobbins actually was targeted for an attack but technical issues resulted in the ship receiving only shrapnel, Spencer said.
“Nobody expected an attack like that,” Spencer said.
The lack of warning led President Roosevelt to call it “a date which will live in infamy.”
Sanibel resident and U.S. Marine Ret. Maj. John Boone said honoring military war veterans such as Spencer is “germane.”
“America is home to the free,” Boone said. “To have one of these living legends in our midst is the very thing America stands for.”