A 104-year-old veteran from San Diego, known to be the oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor made his return trip to Hawaii on Saturday, where he will be honored at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Wednesday.
Seaman 1st class Raymond Chavez will be a special guest of the 75th anniversary commemorative ceremonies.
Chavez was assigned to the USS Condor. Chavez remembers the time on December 7, 1941 where a Japanese midget submarine was sighted roughly four hours before the attack. That day, he was asleep at home after a minesweeping mission that helped sink an enemy submarine. The contact was handed over to the USS Ward and Chavez’ ship was ordered to return.
Chavez’ wife woke him up telling him about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I never will forget [Pearl Harbor] as long as I live,” Chavez told NBC San Diego.
“You could see the black smoke from one end to the other,” said Chavez. “The ships were on fire, and burning their oil.”
Chavez fought against the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor and stayed there fore more than a week to help in the fighting as well as the recovery.
“I started crying,” Chavez said. “I’m not ashamed to admit it…all the Sailors who were trying to save themselves, and all the dead bodies, and the oil.
Chavez was accompanied by his daughter, Kathleen, a retired U.S. Navy veteran during their flight on Saturday.
While at the airport, multiple people walked up to Chavez to thank him for his service and shake his hand.
“Well, I’m not exactly a hero, because there were thousands of other heroes, too. But I’m very proud of the honor bestowed on me,” he told NBC San Diego.