While over 100 World War II veterans are traveling to Hawaii to participate in a week of events honoring their courage and sacrifice on this 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, few are journeying further than 92-year-old Robert Coles.
Coles is a Navy seaman hailing from the small town of Machias, Maine, which has a population of just a tick over 2,000 people.
He’s decided it’s time to see some of his fellow survivors for the first time in over seven decades.
Via the Wall Street Journal:
Few of the remaining survivors gathering here this week to mark the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have journeyed farther than Robert Coles.
The retired U.S. Navy seaman traveled more than 5,000 miles from his home in Machias, Maine, a small town in the eastern part of the state that was the site of an early naval battle in the U.S. Revolutionary War.
At 92, Mr. Coles decided it was time to revisit Pearl Harbor—for the first time since he was stationed there 75 years ago. It would be a final chance to see some of the men who survived the attack with him.
“I won’t know them, and they won’t know me, but I’ll be with friends,” Mr. Coles said days before he departed for Honolulu. “They were covering my back just like I was covering their back.”
Coles was a fresh-faced high school senior from the Bronx when he enlisted in the Navy back in 1940.
He was one of the first to respond to the Japanese aerial attack from the USS Bagley. Quickly realizing the planes flying through the harbor were not ‘maneuvers,’ he broke open a box of ammunition using a wrench and opened fire with one of the ships big guns.
“I swear by almighty God I shot at and hit the first two torpedo planes that flew by the Bagley, 50 feet off the water,” he said.
Coles continued his naval career participating in 17 naval battles during World War II, and serving until 1970. He earned 17 battle stars and multiple good conduct awards, retiring as a Chief Radioman.
He said he’s “looking forward” to visiting Pearl Harbor for the first time in 75 years.
Comment: Do you have anything you’d like to say to this World War II veteran who served in Pearl Harbor? If so, let him know in the comments section below.