On the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event exists in black and white photos and newsreel coverage for everyone except the few veterans who were there.
Men such as Dewey Jay and William Bonelli, both of Oklahoma City, remember Pearl Harbor in living color. They saw the black smoke billowing from the ships lost. The smell of burning oil remains fresh in their noses. And you don't forget being shot at, they said.
Jay, 91, was in the Army stationed at Schofield Barracks on Dec. 7, 1941. Bonelli, 91, was in the Army Air Corps stationed at Hickham Field.
Both men were eating breakfast when the attack began shortly before 8 a.m.
“I heard something, and I looked out the window and saw a fighter plane come through strafing,” Jay said.
No time for fear
Jay had to cross an open field to get to his unit, which was tasked with occupying the beaches around Pearl Harbor in case an enemy invasion force tried to land on the island.
He knew crossing the field would leave him vulnerable to strafing Japanese planes, but he said he didn't have time to be afraid. His only thought was reaching his unit and doing the job for which he was trained.
It took Jay's unit about 30 minutes to move out and head toward the beaches they were assigned to protect.
“We went right by Pearl Harbor,” Jay said. “It was nothing but black smoke and flames.”
We went right by Pearl Harbor. It was nothing but black smoke and flames.”
Jay, 91, was in the Army stationed at Schofield Barracks on Dec. 7, 1941