Valley's dwindling Pearl Harbor survivors remember historic day

The Fresno BeeDecember 6, 2013 

The central San Joaquin Valley once had 150 Pearl Harbor survivors. Now only a handful remain to tell others about their experience on that historic day 72 years ago.

Chuck Lishman, 93, of Coarsegold can still vividly recount what happened when the Japanese attacked the Hawaiian naval base on Dec. 7, 1941.

He was 21 and at the end of his four-year enlistment in the U.S. Naval Reserve aboard the destroyer USS Perry. Lishman was having breakfast when Japanese planes starting flying overhead.

"We looked up and, my gosh, they started blowing everything up," Lishman said. "We were wondering what was going on. That was it. That was when it all started."

The Japanese attack killed 2,400 people, damaged the U.S. Pacific fleet and launched America into World War II.

"We got sucked into a war," Lishman said. "We didn't even know how they get in here and how did the United States not even know it?"

Lishman and three other Pearl Harbor survivors are expected to attend a remembrance day event at the Legion of Valor Museum in the Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Saturday morning.

The annual ceremony, which includes a wreath laying, was moved from the Fresno veterans hospital where it was held for years.

Lishman, who was the last president of the local chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association before it disbanded in 2011, said it's important to have commemoration events.

"We don't want to get caught like that again," Lishman said. "That's the first time we ever got snickered into a war like that."

Event organizer Tim Springer said he was asked by many survivors to keep the commemoration event going after they all die.

The veterans say "we don't want to be forgotten," Springer said, "and we don't want the lesson of Pearl Harbor to be forgotten, which is basically, 'Remember what happened and keep America alert.' "

If you go

What: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

When: 9:55 a.m. Saturday

Where: Legion of Valor Museum in the Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St.

And in Visalia

What: Visalia Veterans Committee Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony

When: 10:55 a.m. Saturday

Where: World War II mural on South Mooney Boulevard

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, blee@fresnobee.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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