Remembering Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a WHAS11 family member


by Brooke Katz

Posted on December 7, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 7 at 8:01 AM

(WHAS11) -- The day that will live in infamy still lives clearly in the mind of my grandfather Larry Katz.

"I see it. It was a horrible thing," he said.

On Dec. 7 1941 my grandfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor. He was a radioman for the Navy, and he'd just finished celebrating his 23rd birthday just a few days before. He and two shipmates were in town when they learned something was wrong.

"Some sailor passed with a portable radio," he recalled. "About that time we heard the call for all military men to get back to your base immediately."

The group commandeered a cab, unsure of what was happening. After noticing planes in the air, they soon noticed they were the targets.

"We were in the back of the cab. We heard sounds that sounded like a typewriter," he said. "When I looked out of the rear window, I saw this plane coming down the road with traces coming out of the wings. They were firing at us."

When the group finally made it to the Navy yard, they saw the ships burning in the harbor. My grandfather needed to get to Ford Island to meet with his commander, but the island was in the middle of it all. There was no way over because the ferry boats were busy pulling bodies from the water. My grandfather told me he will always remember when he finally made it over to Ford Island and met with his commanding officer.

"He said [he] asked where I'd been. My uniform was dirty and had blood from lifting up different bodies, and that's the first time I broke out and cried," recalled my grandfather.

Now, 70 years later, there are still sights and smells that remind him of that day.

"The smell of diesel oil that I can't take today," he said. "Every time I smell diesel oil, that's what takes me back."

As a young man at the time, my grandpa didn't understand the significance of what had happened, but now he does. He's always told me that he hopes America will always remember, especially once all of the survivors are gone.

My grandfather flew several patrols in the Southwest Pacific, and he even survived a mid-air collision. In 1946 on Dec. 7 my grandfather married my grandmother, Lorene Katz. He's always told me it was so he would never forget a wedding anniversary.