PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – On board the USS Dobbin, Ira “Ike” Schab had just finished taking a shower, putting on a clean sailor’s uniform, and closing his locker when he heard a call for a fire rescue party.
He climbed to the top of the ship to witness the sinking of the USS Utah and the Japanese aircraft in the air. He made a hasty retreat back below deck in order to retrieve ammunition boxes and then joined a line of sailors who were feeding shells to an anti-aircraft gun that was located much higher up.
He recalls that when he was 21 years old, he weighed just 140 pounds, but he was able to move boxes that weighed approximately twice as much as he did.
This came as such a surprise to us. Schab, who is now 103 years old, expressed himself as “startled and scared to death” while speaking at his home in Beaverton, Oregon, where he resides with his daughter. “We had no idea what to anticipate, and we were aware that if anything were to happen to us, it would be the end of the world.”
Schab intends to pay his respects to the more than 2,300 servicemen who were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Thursday, the anniversary of the tragedy, which will take place eighty-two years subsequently.
A ceremony that will commemorate the attack that led to the United States entering World War II is scheduled to take place, and it is anticipated that he will be one of just six survivors. There is a possibility that the real number will change based on the number of guys who are able to attend, who are becoming progressively frail.
USS Arizona Detachment Sailors and National Park Service personnel clean up the Battle Row Mooring Quays on Nov. 27 & Dec. 04, 2023. Mahalo to the volunteers & EN2 Cabero for organizing the event!! @usnavy @PacificHistoricParks @battleshipmissourimemorial pic.twitter.com/rm2eeiH1ng
— Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (@JointBasePHH) December 6, 2023
The number of elderly people who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor has been rapidly decreasing. An individual named Lou Conter, who hails from California and is 102 years old, is the last crew member of the USS Arizona who is still alive.
Ages ranging from 97 to 103 were represented among the survivors who were present at the 80th anniversary memorial service that took place two years ago. The next time around, they will be even older.
According to David Kilton, who is the National Park Service’s interpretation, education, and visitor services lead at Pearl Harbor, survivors of the attack routinely volunteered to share their experiences with visitors to the historic site over the course of many years. That is no longer a viable option.
We could be the finest storytellers in the world, but we can’t really stand a candle to those who lived it and shared their tales personally,” Kilton added. “We could be the best storytellers in the world.”
“However, now that we are losing that generation and won’t have them for very much longer, the opportunity shifts to reflect even more so on the sacrifices that were made and the stories that they did share,” the speaker said.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs does not maintain information regarding the number of survivors who are still alive after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
According to the data provided by the government, out of the 16 million people who participated in World War II, just around 120,000 were still alive as of October, and it is anticipated that 131 people pass away every single day.
According to a preliminary estimate that was provided by military historian J. Michael Wenger, there were around 87,000 military personnel stationed on the island of Oahu during the time at which the attack occurred.
Prior to approximately ten years ago, Schab never mentioned Pearl Harbor in any significant way. Since then, he has been telling his experience to many people, including his family, school groups, and historical enthusiasts. Additionally, he has made multiple trips back to Pearl Harbor since then.
What is the reason? “To show respect to the individuals who were unable to make it,” he explained.
A field that is directly across the bay from the USS Arizona Memorial, which is a white monument that rests above the rusting hull of the battleship, which burst in a blaze and sank shortly after being hit, will serve as the location for the event that will take place on Thursday.
Over one thousand and one hundred sailors and Marines from the Arizona were murdered, and over nine hundred of them are buried inside the ship.
At 7:55 a.m., which is the same time that the attack started on December 7, 1941, there will be a moment of silence held and observed.
In accordance with Navy records, the Dobbin suffered the loss of three sailors. As a result of shrapnel from a bomb striking the ship’s stern, two of the crew members died later from wounds they sustained. One of them was killed in action. Everyone was armed with an anti-aircraft gun at the time.
The past few years have seen Schab’s pace slack considerably. However, he continues to engage in weekly gatherings with younger members of his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, for the purpose of enjoying cocktails via Zoom. It is cranberry-raspberry juice that he consumes.
According to Heinrichs, his favorite things to do these days are to get out and meet new people, listen to audiobooks like big band jazz, and listen to big band jazz.
Although he is getting on in years, he is grateful that he is still able to visit Pearl Harbor. The caregivers and Heinrichs are going to accompany him on this journey. In order to assist them in raising funds for the pilgrimage, the family has established a GoFundMe account.
Schab stated, “I’m just thankful that I’m still here on this earth.” That’s exactly how it feels,” she said. I am thankful.