Seven local Pearl Harbor survivors were honored in San Diego Monday by fellow veterans, locals and one little girl with a special connection to the historic day.
“Everybody say ‘Papa Ray,'” one person said as a family posed for a picture on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum, the aircraft-carrier-turned-museum along the Embarcadero.
“Papa Ray” is Ray Richmond, of Serra Mesa. He was on USS Oklahoma when it was bombed by the Japanese in the early morning attack on Dec. 7, 1941. USS Oklahoma lost 429 men in the bombing, more than any other ship outside of USS Arizona.
On this bright, sunny San Diego day, the 97-year-old was seated, wearing his Pearl Harbor survivor jacket and hat, and surrounded by several generations of his family.
The veteran spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2007 and described the moment of the attack. He was showering, he said and jumped into the bay as the ship rolled over. Later, he manned an anti-aircraft gun on USS Maryland, he would tell the paper.
Now, he’s great-grandfather to Mara Alioto. She said "Papa Ray" shares pictures and stories with her when she visits. When she was asked why she was at the ceremony, she didn't hesitate in her answer.
“I think this is really important because this was a big war and every year we remember him,” she said.
Other survivors were on hand including Stu Hedley and Jesse Thompson.
Thompson was just 13 years old living on Battleship Row with his family. His father was stationed on USS Curtis. He remembers waking up and running into the backyard where a Marine ordered him to get out of the area as the planes attacked the ships harbored near Honolulu.
San Diego has been home to several Pearl Harbor survivors over the years. A group of survivors meets for lunch every Wednesday at Thompson’s house. When it began they had 25 to 30 members, he said. Now, there are just four of the original members but they’re joined by dozens of family members.
The ceremony included a moment to remember local Pearl Harbor survivors who passed away in the last year.