Survivors Remember Pearl Harbor

Dec 7, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -Friday marks the 71st anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. December 7 still brings back particularly vivid memories for a small group of Kentuckians who gather every year to remember the “day which will live in infamy.”

Heads bowed during the opening blessing, the men sit around a table labeled PHS: Pearl Harbor Survivors. It’s a title few can still claim. Last year there were 15 members of the Kentucky Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association; today there are only 10. But while their numbers may be dwindling, many of the memories remain fresh in their minds.

"I got up that morning, went to the mess tent, got an apple and a bottle of milk, set it down, and I never saw that again," says Herman Horn, who served with the Army Selective Service.  He was among those sleeping in tents on the harbor, many of which weren’t as lucky as he was.  

"There's a whole lot of things you can't forget... I wake up at night and think about them," he says.

Fellow survivor John Toy of Mount Sterling sits nearby. The 94-year-old leans forward when he speaks. The little details stay with him, especially when he recalls the first Japanese plane he saw fly overhead.

"And he looked down at me, looked like he had a big smile on his face. Flying real low and slow and I believe if I'd had a rock, I could have threw it and hit him," Toy remembers.

The survivors say it would take awhile for the significance of the attack to dawn on them, but now, when they look back, their hope is that younger generations keep that memory alive. Horn doesn't believe that will be a problem, at least for his kids.

"They got the whole story. They say 'Daddy, I've heard it before," Horn says, laughing.

Pearl Harbor Survivor John Toy chats with a visitor at the annual Pearl Harbor gathering.
Pearl Harbor Survivor John Toy chats with a visitor at the annual Pearl Harbor gathering.
Credit Josh James / WUKY