Paul Goodyear, a survivor from the USS Oklahoma, placed a lei yesterday on one of the new grave markers for unknowns at Punchbowl. The markers list the ship's name and bear the date Dec. 7, 1941.

New markers honor
Pearl Harbor’s lost

A ceremony at Punchbowl remembers
the sacrifices of USS Oklahoma sailors

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Each year their ranks grow thinner.

And with each commemoration, says Kona resident Gene Seltzer, "It gets a little sadder."

For Arizona resident Paul Goodyear, there is still the nagging feeling that something intervened 61 years ago as he was dragging himself up the hull of the battleship USS Maryland.

"There is still a little bit of trauma, guilt and perhaps just damn fool luck," said Goodyear, 84. "You ask yourself why them and not me. I still see those white spots just inches above my head."

Those "white spots" were bullets slamming into the hull of the 27,500-ton battleship USS Maryland where Goodyear sought refuge after he left his ship, the USS Oklahoma, as it rolled onto its side after taking three torpedo hits when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

"For years I felt an awful lot of guilt," said Goodyear, who had just reported to Oklahoma's bridge as a signalman minutes before the bombs began to fall.

"A guy threw me a line from the (battleship) Maryland and I was pulling myself up ... then I saw those white spots ... if I had moved quicker or if the guy had pulled me up faster ... "

Seltzer, 78, notes that each time he meets with survivors of the USS Utah, which the Japanese mistook for a U.S. aircraft carrier, at a Dec. 7 reunion, "there are less guys."

"Personally, I don't feel all that good myself anymore ... there are a lot of miles on me."

On the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Seltzer, his son and Mary Kreigh, historian for the USS Utah, made a special pilgrimage to Ford Island where the rusty hulk of the battleship can still be seen.

Along with the remains of 58 sailors from the Utah, the skeleton of the Utah also holds the ashes of a baby girl, Kreigh's twin sister, who died at birth. Chief Yeoman Albert Thomas Dewitt Wagner, the girls' father, had been waiting for a chaplain to be assigned to the Utah to preside over a burial ceremony at sea when the ship went out on maneuvers. An urn carrying her ashes was in his locker when the Japanese attacked and was never recovered.

In retrospect, Kreigh said, "I don't think there is a better tribute to my twin sister than to have all those wonderful and brave men guarding her."

At sunset on Friday, Kreigh and Goodyear stood on the concrete pier and a memorial slab that were built and dedicated in 1972 as a Navy detail lowered the American flag honoring the sailors still entombed in the Utah.

For Goodyear and other survivors of the USS Oklahoma, this year's commemoration was marked by a special service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific yesterday, where 41 granite gray markers once only inscribed with word "Unknown" now carry the added words "USS Oklahoma" on one line and "Dec. 7, 1941" on another.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, who died Sept. 28 and is buried at Punchbowl, and Ray Emory, chief historian for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, 77 headstones last year were changed to say more than just "Unknown."

New markers now bear ship names including California, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Curtiss, and the date Dec. 7, 1941.

Yesterday, 177 more new gravestones were in place. Tiny American flags marked their location to help the survivors like Goodyear find them.

Gene Castagnetti, cemetery director, said there are still 1,740 headstones at Punchbowl that still only bear the inscription "Unknown."

"From the moment you're born," said Goodyear philosophically, "you start to die ... it's just a matter of when and how. We want it to be a merciful death.

"For the sailors on the Arizona it was instantaneous. But many of our kids were caught and trapped inside an overturned ship ... We didn't cut out 32 men until 6 o'clock on Tuesday -- that was 46 hours later. We don't know what happened to so many others.

"We want these kids to have a little recognition. We want to give them a little peace."

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Oklahoma was moored in Battleship Row at Ford Island alongside the USS Maryland (BB 46). The Oklahoma took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As it began to capsize, two more torpedoes struck home, and sailors were strafed as they abandoned ship. Within 20 minutes after the attack began, the Oklahoma had swung over until halted by her masts touching bottom, its starboard side above water and a part of her keel clear. Twenty officers and 395 enlisted men were killed or missing, 32 others wounded, and many were trapped within the capsized hull, to be saved by rescue efforts.

The Oklahoma was raised and was going to be sold for salvage but sank while being towed to California. Goodyear and other Oklahoma survivors are working to build a memorial on Ford Island.

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