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Pearl Harbor survivor recalls fateful day 71 years ago

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Updated: 12/07/2012 6:48 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) --Today there was a silent remembrance for the victims of Pearl Harbor -- which happened 71 years ago today. The ceremony started at 7:55 am Hawaii time - the moment the attack started.

The Hawaii Air National Guard flew over the area in a missing man formation. Only 13 surviving sailors from the attack on the USS Arizona are still alive. One of them lives here in Las Vegas.

News 3's Sandra Gonzalez caught up with 89-year-old Clarendon “Clare” Hettrick today.

Hetrick was a mess cook on the Arizona on December 7, 1941. He remembers the day like it was yesterday, and lives to ensure people don’t forget.

“I was in a forward latrine getting ready to go on liberty about half shaven and all hell broke loose,” Hetrick said.

On that morning, his ship was targeted by Japanese Dive Bombers, and a bomb penetrated the Arizona’s forward magazine, blowing the ship to pieces. Of 1,512 sailors, 1,177 were killed.

Hetrick was one of the lucky few. Soon he was in the water, trying to get to shore and he’s not a swimmer.

“I did a lot of praying in a hurry and basically I’m not a religious man,” Hetrick said.
71 years later, he lives to make sure future generations don’t forget.

“I think they should teach more history of the past of what happened and how it happened and why and maybe people will wake up a little bit,” Hetrick said.

He’s been back to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial four times so far.

“It gives me shivers all over knowing that a lot of my friends are still there,” Hetrick said.

Hetrick asked the navy for piece of the ship’s metal. He has it framed and treasures it with all his heart.
“That's my prime possession!” Hetrick said, “It means the last of my one time home. I felt that the Arizona was my home for a year, and it could have been a lot longer.”

As he reflects on that day that changed his life and history, he shares these words of wisdom.

“Never put your guard down. Keep your guard up all the time,” he said.

Like many of his fellow shipmates, and there are dozens who have done this, when he dies, he wants his ashes interred inside the Arizona.

Hundreds were entombed in that ship when it sank. When he finally returns, he will be 18 once again, surrounded by men he hasn’t seen since December 7th, 1941.


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