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Remembering the 'Day of Infamy'

Capt. Michael Mathews, USN (ret), describes the destruction that occurred during the Pearl Harbor attack with a picture of one of the battleships in  “battleship row.” - Photo by Kassie Korich
Capt. Michael Mathews, USN (ret), describes the destruction that occurred during the Pearl Harbor attack with a picture of one of the battleships in “battleship row.”
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

It has been 63 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor and on Tuesday the Jack Murdock Auditorium at Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport was filled with those wanting to remember the men who sacrificed their lives that fateful day.

Now in their eighties, more than 20 survivors came together Tuesday to honor their fellow service men who died in the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. As each year passes there are less and less survivors to tell the stories of what happened on that day.

“We’re losing us, we lost 380 survivors last year and there are not many of us left. Time will take us all,” said Douglas Smith, a Pearl Harbor survivor.

There were, however, a handful of survivors who stood to tell their memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor and what they first saw and heard on that foreboding Sunday morning.

Jorgen Tweiten, of Poulsbo, was stationed aboard the USS Rigel, a repair ship, when the attacked occurred.

“I had the midnight watch and just came down after breakfast when I saw four Japanese planes coming right for us. I really didn’t know what was going on, but it scared the hell out of me,” he said. “The radio shack where I was suppose to be was quite empty when we were given the message to get moving. I turned around and saw the (USS) Oklahoma turn over, I heard big explosions and saw (USS) Arizona go up. I really do not wish to see something like that again.”

Many of the survivors were forced to abandon ship which for most meant jumping off the sides of their ships into the waters below including Gerhard Jensch, a gunner’s mate who was aboard the USS California as the battleship was hit by bombs and torpedoes and slowly sunk to the bottom of the harbor. He told of how he had to pick himself off the deck several times as he ran after falling from the force of the bombs hitting the ship and how he had to jump 40 feet down to the water and swim to the beach.

Others recollected memories of Pearl Harbor including Ken Freeberg of Silverdale who was 18 years old when his ship, the USS Honolulu, was hit. He vividly recalled the first images of the attack.

“As I came out on the main deck, the first thing I saw was a plane blow up right off our stern. At that

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