69 years later, veterans share Pearl Harbor stories

Reliving that fateful day

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.

"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."