About three weeks ago, one of New England's last remaining survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor died. We note Veteran's Day tomorrow by recalling the experience of one man, who spent the rest of his life representing the experience of many on that terrible day.
His name was Edward F. Borucki, and he grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He had enlisted in the Navy in July 1940, and on December 7, 1941, the "day of infamy," he was stationed on the light cruiser USS Helena, moored in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, that Sunday morning. He was twenty-one years old. The week before he had sent his mother presents for Christmas.
Third Class Yeoman Borucki rose at 7:45 a.m., and was issuing passes for Sunday liberty, when ten minutes later the general alarm sounded the Japanese attack. He recalled for the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, published December 6, 2013, his memory of what happened after the general alarm:
I dashed to my battle station, forward battle dressing and damage control on the first deck. I was knocked against a bulkhead as soon as I got there by the force of the aerial torpedo that hit the forward engine room. We shut the water-tight doors and valves while hearing the five-inch anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and bombs being dropped. I was saved by a mere 30 seconds.
We were below deck and could not see the action. After two hours, the "all clear" sounded and we proceeded to the area of the forward engine room where we saw the oil-stained, blackened bodies of the 33 shipmates killed plus many others wounded.
We proceeded to carry out the dead and injured up the ladders to the main deck and to the gang plank to shore and the waiting ambulances and vehicles to carry the dead and wounded to the hospitals."
His hometown paper, the Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram the next day, Monday, December 8th, published his photo, as you see here, with a short bio that reads like an obituary. For some families, it would be weeks before they knew if their loves ones stationed there were living or dead. The ambiguous last sentence begins, "Borucki will be remembered..."
Edward Borucki survived and returned home in February 1942. He spent the rest of his life remembering those who were killed and he attended many commemorations through several decades. He was 94 years old when he died in the Holyoke Soldiers Home.