Shipyard worker recounts Pearl Harbor attack, rebuilding effort

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Dec. 7, 1941, Erdworth Ventula was 17 and a month into his new job at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

"My brother dropped me in the administration building outside. He brought me to work," he said.

Ventula remembers it being deserted outside and eerily quiet -- the calm before the storm.

He got to his building, and hadn't even punched his time clock, when the duty officer ordered him to check on the drydocks. Then he saw it.

"Ford Island was literally in fire," he said. "When we went close to the repair basin all of a sudden the Arizona goes boom!"

He was sent back to his shop and his supervisor.

"'I think we in war!' That's what he said," Ventula recalls.

Japan's attack was at full throttle. Fighter planes buzzed the shipyard.

"All of a sudden, shooting bullets all over the building. Boom boom boom boom boom boom!" he said.

Ventula was told to guard the back door.

"He had to watch the back of the shop," Ventula's son, Eddie, said. "They wasn't sure if they was landing at the same time, if the airplanes was coming down and landing people."

Ventula said he was too busy to be frightened.

Every worker at the shipyard reported for duty.

"I stayed there two days. I eat and sleep and eat and sleep and do what I'm told," he said.

The operation to rebuild the damaged fleet went into overdrive. Ventula worked long hours.

"My job was to broke the cast iron blocks to balance the ships. "Seven days a week. No rest."

After 32 years, Ventula retired from the shipyard. This is the first time he has publicly shared his Pearl Harbor story.

"His generation was that type of way. They just hold it in. They lived it and they moved on," Eddie Ventula said.

Three months after the attack, Erdworth Ventula got a letter recognizing him for his "efficient action" and "presence of mind" on Dec. 7 and the days that followed. The letter from the shipyard's commandant said he handled every emergency in an outstanding manner.

"I did something," Ventula said.

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