Pearl Harbor survivor recalls 'close call' as sailor during attack

Pearl Harbor survivor recalls 'close call' as sailor during attack

PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - On December 7, 1941, Dick Girocco was a 20-year-old sailor working on PBY seaplanes at Hangar 54 on Ford Island.
"The first thing that got our attention was the noise, the dive bombers, that's how close they were, coming down on our seaplane ramp," Girocco said.

Girocco says at first, they thought it was the Army Air Corps doing practice runs and dropping sacks of flour.

"So we run out the front of the hangar, looked up, didn't realize instantly that they were Japanese because they're the same color, basically the same color as the Army Air Corp. But when they released their bombs, they didn't look like big flour sacks, that's when we knew they were Japanese," he said.

The first bombs hit Hangar 6, right next door. Girocco and several others in his group took cover in a recently dug ditch, about 6 feet deep. Not able to see what was going on, Girocco says what he remembers most about the attack is the sound. It was "tremendously loud and non-stop."

The Japanese planes just kept coming.

"This one banked, I mean, just barely cleared the top of the hangar. He looked down in the ditch. I could look him right in the eye. I don't remember any of his facial features but I remember he had this leather helmet and he had fur around the edges, I can still picture that."

That pilot circled around and was lining up for a strafing run on the ditch. But fortunately a fellow sailor had set up a 50-caliber nearby when the Japanese pilot started to make his approach.

"You could see his rounds hitting the water, and that 50-caliber opened up on him and him being clever enough to realize he was in trouble, he turned away, so nobody was hit in the ditch."

Girocco says that was his "closest call" that December morning.

Memories of what happened in the days following the attack aren't quite so clear. But there are plenty of stories to be told, and Dick Girocco does so faithfully four times a week at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

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