Rendering a salute in memory


POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pearl Harbor survivor Ed Borucki has returned to the islands 18 times since 1961 to honor those who died on the light cruiser USS Helena on Dec. 7, 1941.

“;I do it to remember my 33 shipmates,”; said the retired Massachusetts school teacher.

“;There were 2,390 people killed in two hours,”; Borucki, 89, said. “;It was the worst disaster in naval history.

“;If it wasn't for Pearl Harbor, I wouldn't have lost a brother who enlisted after he thought I had been killed here. He enlisted a day after Pearl Harbor and was killed in the North Atlantic in August 1942 when his ship, the USS Ingraham, a destroyer, was sunk.”;

Borucki, a former chief petty officer, and retired Warrant Officer Albert Fynan, 90, are among the 40 survivors of the 1941 Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet attending tomorrow's services marking the 68th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

On Thursday, the two World War II veterans and their families were the guests of the Navy on a one-hour shuttle boat tour of Pearl Harbor. It ended with a brief twilight visit to the Arizona Memorial, which spans the 608-foot sunken battleship.





        Gov. Linda Lingle has ordered state flags to fly at half-staff tomorrow for Pearl Harbor remembrance day. President Barack Obama has also issued a proclamation urging federal agencies to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff.



At the start of the tour, Capt. Larry Scruggs, executive officer for Pearl Harbor Naval Station, told the group the he wanted to give them “;a sense of Pearl Harbor today.”; He pointed to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, where Borucki's Helena was moored at the “;1010 Pier”; next to the minelayer USS Ogala on that Sunday in 1941, and where Fynan's light cruiser USS Honolulu was tied up next to another light cruiser, the USS St. Louis.

Scruggs also showed the group the supply docks and Kilo pier, where tomorrow's one-hour memorial ceremony will be held, noting that those areas were spared from the Japanese bombing and strafing although they were targets of the third wave that never materialized.

Fynan had been in the Navy for four years and had just been promoted to petty officer first class when the Sunday attack occurred.

“;I was on the fantail before the bombing started,”; said Fynan, who served in the Navy for 20 years before retiring. “;We were at colors just before 8 before breakfast. It (breakfast) wasn't much, and then general quarters was sounded. My duty station was the No. 4 fireroom. That's where I went, and we tried to get up enough steam to get under way.”;

Borucki had gone to his battle station, “;and that saved my life,”; he said. “;Minutes later, a torpedo hit the forward engine room where I had been working, killing 33 of my shipmates.”;

The Helena was one of 150 vessels in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 and one of the first ships attacked. It was struck by a Japanese torpedo that passed under the Ogala. The explosion opened up the starboard side of the ship.

Eleven days after entering the shipyard for temporary repairs, the Helena set sail for San Francisco and Mare Island. Borucki left the ship and was assigned to the seaplane tender USS Rockaway throughout World War II.

Fynan said the Honolulu was repaired and escorted a convoy to San Francisco. The cruiser continued convoy escort duty to Australia and Samoa, and participated in campaigns in the Solomon Islands and the Philippines.

Fynan will be among 16 former USS Honolulu crewmembers who will attend tomorrow's ceremonies.

Borucki enlisted in the Navy because “;I wanted travel and adventure, and I didn't expect a war.”;

He left a 35-cent-an-hour job at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts making M-1 rifles because the Navy promised to pay him $21 a month.

At the conclusion of his visit to the alabaster memorial, Borucki stood at attention in his dark blue dress uniform in the Arizona's shrine room. Standing before a wall that bore the names of the Arizona's crew killed in the attack, Borucki rendered a salute.