Pearl Harbor 70 years ago (Part 4)

Here is a portion of an article from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :

Dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors recall that fateful day

By Rachel Weaver and Richard Robbin, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Read more: Dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors recall that fateful day – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Most Western Pennsylvanians who survived the “date which will live in infamy” are in their late 80s or early 90s. Here are a few of their stories about that day:

Nelson Ferguson of Plum

Nelson Ferguson of Plum remembers sirens blaring, and then a shell whizzed by.

Serving in the Army’s 24th Infantry Division, he was staying at a boarding house in Honolulu, planning to do some Christmas shopping.

“We heard something whistle by the roof,” said Ferguson, 91. “You could hear it sizzling. … And we got out of there in a hurry.”

He hopped a bus back to Schofield Barracks, where guards scrutinized him at the gate to make sure he wasn’t a spy.

Because Ferguson worked with messages and codes, he stayed at the command post in Oahu, sleeping on a cot.

“They would be afraid that if I got captured, they would force me to tell the code,” Ferguson said.

He once risked friendly fire when delivering messages across the island. “If something moved after dark, it would get shot at,” he said.

Ferguson grew up in Monroeville, the oldest of 11 children. He worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps for two years and joined the Army at 18, serving from 1938 to 1945. He later worked for U.S. Steel Research.

“(Nelson) spent a lot of time devoted to his country,” said his wife, Joyce. “And he’s very proud of that.”

Rose Marie Jewart of Vandergrift

Rose Marie Jewart and her family arrived home from church that morning and were climbing the 45 steps to their veranda when they saw a plane approaching Pearl Harbor.

It flew so low that Jewart, then 8, saw the pilot and red circle beneath the wings. She said to her granddad: “That’s not Americans.”

“He turned on the radio, and the voice came on: ‘We are being attacked. All civilians go up to the mountains. We are being attacked.’ ”

Jewart, 77, of Vandergrift remembers planes circling and people panicking. She was scared for her father, who worked as a civilian on ships tearing down and rebuilding boilers. He evacuated the USS Arizona on a dinghy.

Other family members worked on a California Packing sugar plantation, where tides brought bodies ashore.

“They told the kids, ‘All right, go pick it up and put it in the ambulance,’ ” Jewart said. “Everybody had a job.”

Life was tough after the attack. Most food was imported and “they couldn’t allow the ships to come through because of the enemy submarines.”

She didn’t understand why many of her Japanese friends ended up in detention camps behind barbed wire. “Mom said, ‘Well they don’t know who the enemy is.’ I said, ‘But they’re children.’ ”

In 1956, Jewart moved to Pennsylvania with her husband, Jack, whom she met in Hawaii. She worked for Kiski Area School District in the cafeteria and as a crossing guard.

She cannot forget Pearl Harbor.

“It never leaves. It becomes part of your life.”

Staff writer Rossilynne Skena contributed to this report

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