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Navy Veteran Recalls Pearl Harbor

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX –

On this date, 68 years ago, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. KERA's Bill Zeeble talked to an 88 year old former Navy man who was, at the time, a new 3rd class petty officer on Pearl Harbor.

Bill Williams was looking forward to shore leave that day, December 7th, 1941. His ship was the USS Aylwin, a destroyer. It was morning, just before 8.

Williams: I was a radio man, but my battle station was aircraft lookout. And there were so many of them that everyone was taking a target of opportunity.

Williams says he and the others knew almost immediately they were being attacked. He says his squadron of 9 destroyers and 2 cruisers managed to get out to sea, but not before a close call.

Williams: We were lucky, a bit away from the fray. All we got was a couple airplanes trying to strafe us. I had one coming straight at me and I would recognize him if he walked in the door today, even though he would have aged he was looking straight at me but he was pulling up so he missed me. But one of his slugs went through the pant leg of shipmate of mine on the next deck above, but missed him.

Williams's destroyer headed out to sea. He recalls the mess cook came around with baloney sandwiches. Williams recalls savoring - calling it the best meal he ever had - because he didn't' know if it would be his last. Bill Williams retired from the Navy in 1963 as a Master Chief Petty Officer and now lives in Gainesville.

Email Bill Zeeble