Honoring Maine’s Oldest Living Pearl Harbor Veteranby Representative Chellie Pingree
Posted on 2015-01-22
in the house of representatives
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Ms. PINGREE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a constituent
with a story that should be heard. At 95 years old, James Watson of
South Portland, Maine, is our state's oldest living veteran who was
present during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The morning of December 7, 1941, began like many others for Mr. Watson. At the time, he was a gunner's mate first class aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix, which was anchored across the harbor from Battleship Row. He was reading the Sunday paper below deck when he felt a vibration rock the ship, then heard a call over the loudspeaker to report to battle stations.
Once topside, he saw anti-aircraft explosions in the air and smelled thick clouds of burning fuel. He knew instantly that the country was at war. What followed after was a blur. ``You're too busy to be scared. You're just mad. You're angry,'' Mr. Watson recently recounted to a local newspaper.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, ``a date which will live in infamy.'' And, indeed, from books, films, and photos, we can still get a sense of that day's incredible devastation and terrible loss of the life. But as the days go by, there are fewer and fewer living veterans who saw it through their own eyes and can recall what it was like to go through such an experience. Their stories are critical to ensuring that we never forget what happened there.
I appreciate that Mr. Watson has shared his memories so we can better understand and remember one of the most pivotal moments in our nation's history. And I thank him for his brave service that day, and the rest that followed.