Jefferson City veteran talks about surviving Pearl Harbor attack

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JEFFERSON CITY -  On Dec. 7th 1941, Bill McAnany and a couple friends woke up early to embark on an adventure they had planned the night before. It was a Sunday morning and it was their day off.

The five friends were in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Pearl Harbor naval base on the USS Solace where they had been stationed since mid-October. The Solace was a hospital ship where McAnany worked as an X-ray technician. 

A cab came to pick the friends up that morning to give them a tour around the island. Moments into their tour, they looked over and saw an aircraft burst over the air station. At the time, McAnany said the guys assumed the "crazy dudes over there were doing gunnery practice on Sunday," which was not unheard of.

Then they saw an airplane fall out of the sky. 

"Well, we decided they were probably shooting at the drones," McAnany said. 

A man approached them, asked if they were in the service and then told McAnany and his friends the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor and instructed them to get back to their ship. 

"So we looked at this guy like well, ok, he's some kind of a kook." 

Skeptical, the men turned on the radio to find out they were not being pranked, and their naval base had been attacked. The friends, all hospital crewmen, quickly returned to the ship. 

"We...were heading out toward battleship row when the second wave came over, that became more interesting. We were in the middle of a lot of nonsense that we thought was just a joke," he said. 

McAnany and his buddies started picking up some of the sailors who were swimming in the water, which he said was boiling hot from the explosions.

"Because by that time a lot of oil had been spilled in the water and it was a fire and it was really blazing so we filled up our motor launch with survivors."

Backtrack a few months, and McAnany and the others on the USS Solace were stationed at Pearl Harbor to take care of the needs of the fleet's medical situations.

McAnany said after the initial attack calmed down, cleaning up the remains of those they had lost became some what of a routine. 

"We spent the days going out into the harbor picking up bodies and up until the time we left in mid-March, we were picking up bodies that were, sunk, for lack of a better word."

The USS Solace left Pearl Harbor in March 1942, just days before McAnany's 21st birthday. 

McAnany would go on to be appointed to Chief Petty Officer and serve on four other naval ships. He finally retired from the Navy in 1958 after serving for 20 years.

But after that day that will live in infamy, McAnany said he knows his view on life changed forever. 

"One thing that impressed me, how dear that life was after we started picking these guys up from the battlefield."

McAnany said watching the survivors try to breathe and seeing how bad of shape they were in left a lasting impact on him. 

"They hurt," he said, "The thought that came to my mind is that life, by charge, is a very precious thing, I took on a very different attitude toward living at that time and I knew that I had to change my ways a little bit because it really was something to be alive." 

McAnany said he has been back to Hawaii since the attack, and said he has already booked a hotel with his wife, Linda, to take part in the 75th remembrance ceremony next December.

The two will also be there to celebrate, as it will be Bill's 95th birthday and the couple's 45th wedding anniversary.

 

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