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Elderly Survivors of Pearl Harbor Attack Prepare to Commemorate the 82nd Anniversary, Paying Tribute to the Fallen

by Ryan Lee
5 comments
Pearl Harbor survivors

The headline “Centenarian survivors of Pearl Harbor attack are returning to honor those who perished 82 years ago” can be paraphrased and expanded upon as follows:

Ira “Ike” Schab, now 103 years old, vividly remembers the morning of December 7, 1941, when he was aboard the USS Dobbin in Pearl Harbor. After showering and donning a fresh sailor’s uniform, he was suddenly summoned to join a fire rescue party. Little did he know that he was about to witness the USS Utah capsizing and Japanese planes dominating the skies. Scrambling below deck, Schab swiftly collected boxes of ammunition, contributing to the urgent effort to feed shells to an anti-aircraft gun. Despite his 140-pound frame as a 21-year-old, he managed to lift boxes almost twice his weight.

Reflecting on that fateful day, Schab shared, “We were pretty startled. Startled and scared to death. We didn’t know what to expect, and we knew that if anything happened to us, that would be it.”

Now, 82 years later, Schab, along with a handful of other survivors, is preparing to return to Pearl Harbor to mark the anniversary of the attack that claimed the lives of more than 2,300 servicemen. This commemorative ceremony serves as a poignant reminder of the events that thrust the United States into World War II. The number of attendees may vary, given the advancing age and health of these survivors.

The diminishing pool of Pearl Harbor survivors is a stark reality. Today, there remains only one surviving crew member of the USS Arizona, 102-year-old Lou Conter of California. Just two years ago, survivors attending the 80th-anniversary remembrance ranged in age from 97 to 103, and they are even older now.

David Kilton, responsible for interpretation, education, and visitor services at Pearl Harbor, noted the invaluable role these survivors played in sharing their firsthand experiences with visitors over the years. However, as the generation of survivors wanes, the focus shifts toward reflecting on the sacrifices made and the stories they shared.

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t maintain specific statistics for Pearl Harbor survivors, data show that out of the 16 million who served in World War II, only about 120,000 were alive as of October, and an estimated 131 veterans pass away each day.

Approximately 87,000 military personnel were stationed on Oahu at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, according to military historian J. Michael Wenger’s rough estimate.

Schab, who didn’t speak much about his Pearl Harbor experience until a decade ago, has since been sharing his story with family, students, and history enthusiasts. He has also made multiple trips back to Pearl Harbor, driven by a profound desire to honor those who didn’t make it.

The upcoming ceremony, set against the backdrop of the USS Arizona Memorial, will include a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., coinciding with the time the attack commenced on December 7, 1941.

The USS Dobbin, where Schab served, lost three sailors according to Navy records, with one killed in action and two succumbing to wounds from bomb fragments striking the ship’s stern—all were manning an anti-aircraft gun.

Schab’s wartime experiences extended beyond Pearl Harbor, as he served in the Pacific theater, including locations such as the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), the Mariana Islands, and Okinawa. Miraculously, he emerged from the war unscathed, crediting what he humorously referred to as a guardian angel.

Post-war, Schab’s career led him to contribute to the Apollo program, working as an electrical engineer at General Dynamics, aiding in sending astronauts to the moon. In retirement, he became a state park docent in Malibu, California, imparting knowledge about the migration patterns of monarch butterflies.

An accomplished tuba player during his Navy service, Schab maintained close ties with his bandmates, organizing annual reunions for decades, according to his daughter, Kimberlee Heinrichs.

In recent years, Schab’s pace has slowed, but he continues to connect with younger members of his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, through weekly Zoom gatherings where he enjoys cranberry-raspberry juice.

Today, Schab finds happiness in listening to big band jazz, indulging in audiobooks, and engaging with new people. Grateful for the opportunity to return to Pearl Harbor, he will be accompanied by his daughter and caregivers for this significant pilgrimage, with a GoFundMe account established to support their journey.

As Schab reflected on this milestone, he expressed his deep gratitude for still being here, underscoring the importance of remembering and honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that historic day.


Note: This paraphrased and expanded text provides a detailed account of the Pearl Harbor survivors’ preparations for the 82nd-anniversary commemoration, paying homage to those who perished in the attack. It maintains a formal and serious tone, in accordance with the user’s request, without the use of emoticons or non-ASCII characters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pearl Harbor survivors

What is the significance of the 82nd-anniversary ceremony at Pearl Harbor?

The 82nd-anniversary ceremony at Pearl Harbor holds immense historical significance as it commemorates the infamous attack on December 7, 1941, which led to the United States’ entry into World War II. It serves as a solemn tribute to the more than 2,300 servicemen who lost their lives during the attack.

Who is Ira “Ike” Schab, and why is he returning to Pearl Harbor?

Ira “Ike” Schab is one of the surviving veterans who was present during the Pearl Harbor attack. At 103 years old, he is among the few remaining survivors. He is returning to Pearl Harbor to pay homage to his fallen comrades and to participate in the anniversary ceremony.

How has the pool of Pearl Harbor survivors evolved over the years?

The pool of Pearl Harbor survivors has been rapidly diminishing. Currently, only one crew member of the USS Arizona, Lou Conter, remains alive at the age of 102. Two years ago, survivors attending the 80th-anniversary ceremony ranged in age from 97 to 103. The number of survivors continues to decrease due to their advancing age.

What is the significance of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor?

The USS Arizona Memorial is a prominent white structure situated above the submerged wreckage of the USS Arizona battleship. It symbolizes the devastating loss of more than 1,100 sailors and Marines from the ship during the Pearl Harbor attack. It serves as a poignant memorial to those who perished, with over 900 entombed inside the ship’s hull.

What is the current status of Pearl Harbor survivors?

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not maintain specific statistics for Pearl Harbor survivors, data reveal that out of the 16 million who served in World War II, only about 120,000 were alive as of October. Regrettably, an estimated 131 veterans from that era pass away each day, emphasizing the urgency of commemorating their experiences and sacrifices.

What is Ira “Ike” Schab’s personal history beyond Pearl Harbor?

Following his service at Pearl Harbor, Ira “Ike” Schab served in various Pacific locations during World War II, including the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), the Mariana Islands, and Okinawa. He remained unscathed throughout the war and went on to contribute to the Apollo program as an electrical engineer at General Dynamics. In retirement, he became a state park docent, educating others on the migration patterns of monarch butterflies.

How has Ira “Ike” Schab continued to stay connected with his wartime comrades?

Schab, an accomplished tuba player during his Navy service, maintained close bonds with his fellow bandmates. For decades, they organized annual reunions, providing a sense of camaraderie and shared memories.

How can Ira “Ike” Schab’s story serve as a source of inspiration and remembrance?

Ira “Ike” Schab’s story is a testament to resilience and the enduring human spirit. His willingness to share his experiences with family, students, and history enthusiasts allows future generations to gain insight into the sacrifices and challenges faced by those who served during World War II. His return to Pearl Harbor underscores the importance of remembering and honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that historic day.

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5 comments

Gratitude101 December 7, 2023 - 1:51 pm

We need to remember. Ike, grateful, still going strong. Don’t forget the past!

Reply
HistoryBuff47 December 7, 2023 - 2:45 pm

Pearl Harbor anniversary, so sad, but important. Ira Schab, hero, comin’ back, so cool!

Reply
Patriot67 December 8, 2023 - 3:04 am

USS Arizona, real history there. Lou Conter, last one, incredible. We owe them all.

Reply
OldSchoolMusic December 8, 2023 - 5:28 am

Tuba player? Ike’s got style! Reunions, that’s heartwarming.

Reply
NavyVet22 December 8, 2023 - 7:18 am

Ike Schab, legend, sharing stories, Apollo program, wow! Respect!

Reply

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