Ray Chavez, known as Pearl Harbor's oldest survivor at 104 will be honored during the 75th anniversary commemorative ceremonies Wednesday in Hawaii.
Chavez, who lives in the San Diego suburb of Poway, California, flew to Hawaii on Saturday, according to KNSD-TV. Chavez was a seaman on the USS Condor on Dec. 7, 1941 when America was attacked by Japanese forces at Pearl Harbor.
"I never will forget (Pearl Harbor) as long as I live," said Chavez, who flew from San Diego International Airport with his daughter Kathleen, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, according to KNSD.
Chavez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that had returned home to his Navy apartment from a mission that destroyed an enemy submarine when the attack happened. He told the newspaper he remembered being woken up by his wife telling him about the attack.
"The Japanese are attacking us and the harbor is on fire," Chavez said his wife told him, according to Union-Tribune.
Chavez said he jumped out of bed about 8 a.m. to see for himself and witnessed the first wave of 350 fighters, torpedo planes, and bombers that traveled across the Pacific Ocean undetected to attack Pearl Harbor.
The surprise Japanese attack led to nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and more than 300 airplanes, being destroyed while more than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died, History.com noted.
The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan and days later, Japan's allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, bringing America in to World War II.
In March, the Union-Tribune wrote that there were fewer than 2,000 American survivors of the Japanese attack still living. Chavez told the newspaper then that he declined returning to Pearl Harbor for four decades before joining veterans for the 50th anniversary.
"The first time I went back, I cried," Chavez said in March, according to the Union-Tribune. "It made me feel a little sad because I remember we were in the harbor pulling up all the dead bodies from the oil and taking the men who were alive to the hospital. It was a terrible memory."
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