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This centenarian and Pearl Harbor survivor remembers Dec. 7, 1941 like it was yesterday

On the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Sterling Cale was a 20-year-old hospital pharmacist mate assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital.
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 4:30 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 4:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Sterling Cale was a 20-year-old hospital pharmacist mate assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital. He had also trained as a Navy diver.

“I finished my frogman course,” he said. “The frogman course is for underwater demolition.”

That would come in handy in the midst of the chaos. Cale swam to pull the bodies of 46 sailors from burning water around the sinking battleships.

‘There was people all over the place,” he said. “It was really difficult for me to know where to go first. So I had to go to the Oklahoma first, and then the Arizona.”

Onboard the USS Arizona, Cale spent days removing remains from the twisted wreckage. He helped recover the bodies of more than 100 servicemen. It was a grim mission.

“You don’t think about what you’re gonna do. You just have to go ahead and do it,” he said.

The military awarded him several medals.

His son also wrote a book about his father’s heroics called “A True American.”

“That’s the one thing that I kept from him close to my heart. He’s a real American. He did his duty,” Sterling Ventula Cale said.

One year after Pearl Harbor, Cale got married before being sent to treat wounded Marines at Guadalcanal. After World War II, he joined the Army and served during the war in Korea, then later in Vietnam. He’s proud of his many contributions to America’s freedom.

“For the benefit of all the people living there, that’s the people that you’re serving. You’re not serving yourself. You’re serving the people that you love,” he said.

Cale retired with the rank of sergeant major.

Before COVID, he often visited the Arizona Memorial to autograph copies of his book and share his stories with civilians and service members.

He just celebrated his 100th birthday.

“The thing that I miss the most, other people don’t even know about or even think about,” he said.

Cale is the last World War II and Pearl Harbor survivor living in Hawaii. He plans to attend the 80th commemoration ceremony to offer one more salute.

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