Below decks on the USS Tennessee, Art Gruber couldn't see the Japanese planes flying overhead, but there was no mistaking what was going on when bombs started exploding.
Moored 70 years ago on Battleship Row during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Tennessee was next to the USS Arizona, which exploded when a bomb detonated the ship's magazine. Gruber, 88, of Norman, said the force of the explosion from the Arizona was massive.
“I thought we had run aground,” Gruber said. “The shock wave bent all the metal bulkheads on our ship.”
Gruber was one of three Pearl Harbor veterans who Wednesday attended the city's annual Pearl Harbor ceremony, at NW 13 and Broadway in front of the salvaged anchor of the USS Oklahoma, another battleship that capsized Dec. 7, 1941, after being hit by multiple Japanese torpedoes.
The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The USS Tennessee was damaged in the attack but was repaired and re-entered the war two months later. The Oklahoma and Arizona weren't so lucky. About 2,400 members of America's military died in the attack.
Gruber's daughter, Cindy Standridge, of Lindsay, said her family never misses the ceremony at the USS Oklahoma anchor.
“We've been here every year since 1985,” Standridge said.
“I'm very proud of my father and his service. He was there to experience one of the most terrible tragedies of the war.”