Pearl Harbour survivor rejoins mates in death

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The United States Navy has fulfilled a Pearl Harbour survivor’s wish to join his shipmates killed in the attack once he had died.

Lee Soucy, who died last year at the age of 90, made his wish five years ago and yesterday, 70 years after dozens of his fellow sailors were killed when the USS Utah sank on December 7 1941, a navy diver took a small urn containing some of his ashes and put it in a porthole of the ship. The ceremony was one of five memorials being held for servicemen who lived through the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and wanted their remains placed in Pearl Harbour.

“They want to return and be with the shipmates that they lost during the attack,” said Jim Taylor, a retired sailor who co-ordinates the ceremonies.

The Japanese bombing killed 2,390 Americans and brought the United States into the Second World War. A larger ceremony to remember all those who perished was being held just before 8am Hawaii time – the same moment the attack began.

Most of the 12 ships that sank or were beached that day were removed for scrap. Only the Utah and the USS Arizona remain.

The cremated remains of Vernon Olsen, who served aboard the Arizona, were interred on his ship during a sunset ceremony. The ashes of three other survivors were scattered in the harbour.

In 1941 Mr Soucy, the youngest of seven children, joined the navy fresh from high school so he would not burden his parents, was a pharmacist mate, trained to care for the sick and wounded.

He had just finished breakfast that Sunday morning when he saw planes dropping bombs on the US hangars. He rushed to his battle station but abandoned ship when ordered.

He swam to shore, where he created a first aid centre to help the wounded and worked without a rest for two days.

The Utah lost nearly 60 men; about 50 are still entombed in it.

The remainder of Mr Soucy’s ashes were interred at his church in Plainview, Texas.