GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
World War II veterans who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor spoke to President Bush and first lady Laura Bush on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor yesterday.
Some Pearl survivors
guests of Bush
Park rangers at the USS Arizona Memorial
add some guests to the list
Pearl Harbor survivor Allen Bodenlos was not expecting to meet the president on his annual trip to the Arizona Memorial from his home in San Diego.
And the meeting almost did not happen.
"I flew here and didn't know this was going on," he said yesterday.
Bodenlos, 83, was in his hotel room last night and saw on the television news that Bush was going to be at the Arizona Memorial.
Bodenlos said he comes to Hawaii once a year to drop flowers into the water at the Arizona to honor his fallen buddies.
Yesterday morning, wearing his Pearl Harbor survivors hat bedecked with pins, he showed up at the Arizona Memorial at 6 a.m., only to be told that he was not invited.
As he was leaving, a park ranger found out what was happening, made a quick phone call, and Bodenlos and a handful of other Pearl Harbor survivors who were not on the official list found themselves on the deck of the USS Missouri taking pictures with Bush.
"What an experience," Bodenlos said afterward. "Wait until I tell them back in San Diego. They'll all be jealous."
Bodenlos presented the president with a Pearl Harbor patch.
"I told him that I prayed for him every night. He thanked me," he said.
"I was going to say, 'Mr. President, I didn't vote for you, but I will next time,'" Bodenlos said, but he thought the better of it.
John Iantorno, 81, a volunteer at the memorial who also was not on the list, said park rangers told him to wear his Pearl Harbor survivor aloha shirt and "use your charm" to get on board the Missouri.
Iantorno said he told Bush that he flew in a TBF torpedo bomber in Fiji in 1942.
"His dad was shot down in one," Iantorno said. "He (Bush) said, 'Yeah, I think I know somebody else who was in one.'
"I told him to 'tell your dad hello for me.'"