KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Eighty years ago the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. There were over 3,400 casualties in the surprise attack. WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with an Army Sergeant who lives in Knoxville remembers it as if it were yesterday.
December 7, 1941 — no American will ever forget that Sunday morning in Hawaii. Durward Swanson hasn’t forgotten. “The first bomb that fell was on Hickam Field, Hawaiian Air Depot that was the first man that was killed in World War II.”
Swanson, who’s 100 years old, remembers that day as if it were yesterday. He was a U.S. Army Air Forces Technical Sergeant having enlisted right out of high school in 1939. He was in charge of the Air Police at Hickam Field. That Sunday morning, Swanson had just returned from the mess hall after an overnight patrol shift and was about to turn in.
“My bed was between two windows, I rolled over and looked out the window and I seen a Zero banking and I seen a Rising Sun on the wings. Boy, it didn’t take me about two minutes to put my shirt on, run downstairs to get my 45 on, get on my motorcycle and I headed to the main gate. Oh, they tore up hangers three, five, seven and eleven. The last raid was high altitude bombers coming over. All the dive bombers and everything was gone.”
Hours following the raid, Swanson said he and fellow soldier Stud Lloyd returned to the main gate.
“That night me and Lloyd were standing there at the gate, I said, ‘Lloyd, we ain’t took the flag down.’ He said, ‘We’ll get it in the morning.’ I said, ‘No, not me. I’m going to get it now.’ It flew, it flew over Potsdam, it flew over the United Nations, it flew over the Air Force Academy, it flew over the White House and back to Hickam. It’s there now.”
He returned to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to place roses on the gravesites of his buddies from Pearl Harbor. “I put one on Strickland’s grave and one on George Smith’s gave.” He added that he’ll always remember those men.
Following the attack, many of those killed were unable to be recovered from the ships they were aboard. Others could not be identified but were laid to rest in Hawaii.