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Pearl Harbor survivor: I saw the Arizona blow up

Posted at 11:27 PM, Dec 06, 2015

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio – "I saw the Arizona blow up," Joe Whitt says matter of factly.

The Navy veteran from New Richmond survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He has a lot of memories of that infamous day – all of them bad.

"This is a weekend that I would love to erase from my brain because all of the years that I have been away from the war, I am still in the war. You never get away from it completely," Whitt says.

Monday is the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. More than 2,300 service members were killed in Hawaii that day, about half – 1,177 – on the USS Arizona. The sneak attack pulled the U.S. into World War II.

Whitt was 17 when he enlisted in the navy. He served on the USS San Francisco, which was docked in Pearl Harbor that fateful morning.

"Sometimes it is so plain and so clear that it feels like I am right back there again," he said.

The small town of New Richmond has spent the last 30 years remembering that day and those in the community who served. Just past downtown is a monument honoring the men from Clermont County who were there.

When the monument was dedicated in the 1980s, 17 men attended the ceremony. Now, Whitt says, he's the only one left. He has spent years trying to forget that day, but he understands the importance for all of us to remember.

"Each one of them, I heard their story, and I am telling you that any story from that day is bad," Whitt said

Whitt earned 17 battle stars in World War II, and New Richmond honored him at a dinner Saturday at the Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church. There will be other remembrances Monday for the men no longer here to thank.