BOSTON (CBS) – Tuesday was the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a terrible defeat for the United States and the act that brought the country into World War II.
For one local man, the commemoration of the attack is personal. Bill Keith from Marshfield was there, and he, too, was honored.
At 94, former Navy Corpsman Bill Keith got a loud but respectful welcome. But 75 years ago he was a 19-year-old serving on the USS West Virginia. Bill found his ship, the USS West Virginia under attack, struck by six torpedoes and two bombs. “One hundred six of Bill’s shipmates perished at Pearl Harbor,” says Marc Cohen, the director of the Brookdale Senior Living Center in Quincy where Bill and his wife Barbara live.
His family, friends and current service members gathered at the center to honor him, proving that December 7 is still a day to remember. “I hope he was just happy to see us and knows that the community supports him and that we’re all very proud of him for everything he’s done for us as a community and for this country,” says Chief Petty Officer Jessica McHamrewerts from the US Naval War College in Newport, RI. A group from the college came to Quincy to recognize Mr. Keith.
Bill is a man of few words, rarely speaking about his wartime experiences, but he’s kept a scrapbook about it, and you can tell he vividly remembers the terror of being five levels below the main deck when the attack began, something his family says has given him nightmares. “We got torpedoed. We tried to escape. We went up a ladder, there were people stepping on your hands. It was like a miracle,” Keith remembers.
To this day he wears a hat with “Pearl Harbor Survivor” written on it, and he has a simple message, “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
Mr. Keith has gone back to Pearl Harbor several times. The first was for the 50th anniversary of the attack, and that was the first time he’d ever flown.