'It never goes away': Oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran recounts the 1941 attack

Ray Chavez is the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. (Image: Kathleen Chavez)
Ray Chavez is the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. (Image: Kathleen Chavez)
Ray Chavez is the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Ray Chavez is the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

WASHINGTON D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ray Chavez says that 76 years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor is something he remembers as if it were yesterday.

"I saw all the ships on fire, a terrible smoke screen, all through the harbor and covering the ships," said Chavez, the world's oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. "It never goes away, what you see and learn."

The 106-year-old veteran traveled from San Diego to Washington D.C. to meet with several veterans to attend the 150th Memorial Day Ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery.

At the time of the attack, Chavez was a quartermaster stationed in Pearl Harbor, living with his wife and oldest daughter. He was assigned to a minesweeper, the "Condor" that detected a Japanese submarine in restricted waters the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

He believes that the act of remembering is the most important thing anyone can do this holiday weekend.

"It's very important that the younger generations know and learn the meaning of war," Chavez said. "I would do it again if I was called to active duty, but chances are they'll never call me."

Chavez plans to spend the weekend and ceremony honoring the sacrificial soldiers who gave their lives to serve the country.

"I never will forget them," Chavez said. "I met some real fine young men."

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