69 years later, veterans share Pearl Harbor stories

Reliving that fateful day

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Quentin Shivers will celebrate his 90th birthday today, but it's his 21st that will always stand out in his mind. Shivers was working in the Bachelor Officer Quarters of Pearl Harbor's submarine base when -- as he was writing a letter home to his family -- he saw a flaming Japanese torpedo bomber spiral into the mouth of Pearl Harbor's channel and disappear.

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"For a minute you didn't realize what was going on."

-- Quentin Shivers, who was writing a letter home when he saw the attack   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
"For a minute you didn't realize what was going on." -- Quentin Shivers, who was writing a letter home when he saw the attack

"It happened all of a sudden," said Shivers, who lives on Cambridge Way in Martinez. "For a minute you didn't realize what was going on."

Brooks Webster had just arrived in Hawaii for his first assignment in the Navy when, after getting a liberty pass to Honolulu, he was called back to duty. Webster, who lives in Aiken, didn't ask why, and when he stepped out of the taxi to walk to his ship he saw the flames in the harbor.

"The last couple of attacks came over the ship's line right in front of me," he said. "There was nothing I could do but stand there and watch it."

Alvin Mays had just finished eating in the mess hall of Schofield Barracks when he heard rumbling that sounded like "thunder." Soon, Japanese airplanes were strafing the airfield he was assigned to protect.

On the 69th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, as the number of survivors continues to dwindle, The Augusta Chronicle spoke with three local men who still live with vivid memories of Dec. 7, 1941, the date which will forever live in infamy.

BROOKS WEBSTER

RESIDENCE: Aiken

AGE: 93 now; 24 on Dec. 7, 1941

Branch: Navy

LOCATION DURING ATTACK: Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

MEMORIES: Webster was a brand new ensign in the Navy when the attacks on Pearl Harbor occurred. After the attack, which coincided with his first week in Hawaii, he spent the rest of the war working in the engine room on various ships as they chased the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean. Kept below deck, he didn't see much of the fighting, but he had a firsthand view of the attack that started the war. He remembers the thick black oil that lay on the top of the once beautiful harbor, the fires that burned out of control and the sunken hulk of the U.S.S. Raleigh that rested on a nearby bank.

QUOTE: "As we went along all of the fields were planted with sugar cane in those days. Artillery was running through the fields to get into position where they were supposed to go. Everybody was running around like a chicken with their heads cut off."

QUENTIN SHIVERS

Residence: Martinez

AGE: 90 now; 21 on Dec. 7, 1941

Branch: Marine Corps

LOCATION DURING ATTACK: Bachelor Officer Quarters of Pearl Harbor's submarine base

MEMORIES: The night before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he went to downtown Honolulu and visited Waikiki Beach. He still has trouble believing such a peaceful place could have erupted in such violence less than 24 hours later. When the attack came, Shivers was working in Pearl Harbor's submarine base. He was not armed and had no access to weapons. Since he was not allowed to leave his duty post, Shivers said, he went to the top of the building to watch the battle. He saw the U.S.S. Arizona explode in the harbor. Afterward, he saw another ship try to flee the harbor, only to be struck by torpedoes.

QUOTE: "It was really a peaceful place being in the service. It had been over 20 years since the United States was at war, and everything was in a peaceful mode. Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii, in this paradise as far as service personnel were concerned. It was hard to imagine that World War II was going to start the next day, as far as the U.S. was concerned, right there."

ALVIN MAYS

Residence: Augusta

AGE: 89 now; 20 on Dec. 7, 1941

Location during attack: Schofield Barracks, Oahu

BRANCH: Army

MEMORIES: As the Japanese planes strafed his barracks with gunfire, Alvin Mays and the rest of the soldiers boarded trucks and quickly headed to positions in the nearby hills. At the time, he knew little about what was happening, but he could hear the explosions from the harbor about a mile away. He would go on to participate in six island invasions in the Pacific before ending his service.

QUOTE: "We didn't know if they were fixin' to invade the whole island. If they'd have been smart they would have invaded the whole island. They could have took it in 24 hours ... because we weren't expecting anything like that."

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Batman
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Batman 12/07/10 - 02:19 am
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I appreciate the service of

I appreciate the service of these men and the others who fought for our country. My uncle was wounded at Pearl Harbor but he never talked much about his experience. In 2000, I was able to visit the island along with my wife and children. The USS Arizona Memorial is a very somber and emotionally moving place. We also visited the USS Missouri Memorial and saw where the Japanese signed an unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces before General Douglas A. MacArthur in 1945. A very nice trip and I strongly recommend it to everyone.

wildman
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wildman 12/07/10 - 03:20 am
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God Bless each and everyone

God Bless each and everyone of these brave American hero's. They made the sacrifice that most of us will never understand. As a veteran I thank YOU for the service you gave this great country.

fftaz71
108
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fftaz71 12/07/10 - 06:03 am
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Thank you AC for getting

Thank you AC for getting their stories to share with us. May we never forget Pearl Harbor either...

dewayneposs
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dewayneposs 12/07/10 - 06:32 am
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Thanks to all of our veterans

Thanks to all of our veterans for your service. We owe our freedom to you. Sadly, I wonder how many students even know what happened 69 years ago today.

smec29
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smec29 12/07/10 - 08:19 am
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Thank you for your service.

Thank you for your service. Wildman is correct, you are all Hero's in our hearts and our nations history! God Bless.

bettyboop
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bettyboop 12/07/10 - 09:23 am
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Thank You!!!!

Thank You!!!!

tspears
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tspears 12/07/10 - 09:45 am
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I am a history teacher, and

I am a history teacher, and even though this is not in my State standards I make sure that I cover this in class today. All of my students know what happened on this day! Thank You to all who served and continure to serve our country.

poolmom
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poolmom 12/07/10 - 10:24 am
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Wow, God Bless each of these

Wow, God Bless each of these gentlemen.

LaTwon
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LaTwon 12/07/10 - 10:51 am
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"O Lord our Father, our young

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

Tots
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Tots 12/07/10 - 12:20 pm
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Thanks to all our

Thanks to all our veterans.Great story A.C.....@tspears-Thank you for making sure your students know what happened on DEC 7th1941...

Pamela Shivers Palmer
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Pamela Shivers Palmer 12/07/10 - 07:16 pm
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I would just like to tell my

I would just like to tell my Uncle Quentin ~ Happy Birthday!!! Also, how proud I am of him for serving our country. God Bless to all the men.
All the "Shivers" sons served some branch of the military. I am so proud of my Uncle Quentin, all of his brothers (one being my father) and my grandfather for serving our country. God Bless You All.

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