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Pearl Harbor Survivors Honored At NAS Pensacola

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Sandra Averhart
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WUWF Public Media

Four Pensacola Pearl Harbor survivors are being honored in a ceremony Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. at NAS Pensacola. The event, presented by the NAS Pensacola Doolittle Raiders Association, is being hosted by the Navy’s Training Air Wing Six and the Air Force’s 479th Flying Training Group.

Being honored are retired Navy veterans Frank Emond, Cass Phillips, and Jay Carraway, and Marine Veteran Bill Braddock. 

The men are all now in their 90's. Two of them, Braddock and Emond, shared some of their story with WUWF listeners during an in-studio interview back in 2011 before they departed for Hawaii to attend the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

At the time of our interview Frank Emond was 93-years-old. Now, about four-and-a-half years later, he continues to be the oldest of the Pensacola Pearl Harbor Survivors.

Emond is from Pawtucket, RI and says he graduated from high school in 1935 during the Great Depression. He got a job in a mill near his home and worked there for about three years.

“One night I heard a radio broadcast that said the Navy was looking for musicians and I was a French horn player in high school,” said Emond. “So, I applied for that and was accepted in the Navy as a French horn player. So, I did get out of the mill, otherwise I would have stayed there for my whole life.”

Bill Braddock, who was 89 at the time of our 2011 interview, spent his early years growing up on a small farm in a small town in northern Louisiana. The family grew cotton and corn and had about 40 cattle.

Braddock says he didn’t like school and would often play hooky until his father found out. He says it was a couple of popular brothers there who first proposed the idea of joining the military.

So, they want to the recruiter’s office in the nearby city of Monroe.

“We went in to join the Air Force, because that was close to Shreveport, and we knew about them,” said Braddock, adding that he had not even heard of the Marine Corps at that time.

He went to the Air Force office first and then to the Navy office, and found no one home. Then he saw a guy walking down the pathway wearing dress blues.

“I said, ‘Who is that,’” Braddock said upon seeing the Marine and his sharp uniform. “I want to join them, because I liked that uniform with that red stipe down the leg. It kind of turned me on.”

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Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
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WUWF Public Media
Retired Navy veteran Frank Emond and retired Marine veteran Bill Braddock, both Pearl Harbor survivors, during a 2011 interview at WUWF.

Braddock joined up and went on to serve 27 years in the Marine Corps. Frank Emond made music for the Navy for 30 years. Their paths would intersect at Pearl Harbor.

Both said the historic morning of December 7, 1941 started out like any other.

“We were in the band, so it was out turn to raise the colors,” said Emond, who was stationed aboard the USS Pennsylvania. He noted that by about 7:50 that morning they were lined up on the stern of the ship, which was in dry dock, waiting to make the first bugle call.

About five minutes later, Emond says he looked up and saw a big line of planes overhead. “And, the lead one dropped something. I thought the tail was coming apart or they dropped part of the plane.”

Emond, who’s job in combat was a stretcher bearer, watched the object hit the ground and explode into flames and smoke.

“I looked back up and saw the big red spots on the fuselage of the planes. I knew then we were in trouble,” he said.

Meantime, Braddock and a fellow Marine were having a cup of coffee at the Marine barracks mess hall, preparing to report to their security posts on Ford Island.

“All at once, the silverware, we called it the side arm, was jumping up and down on the table,” said Braddock, who thought one of the Navy pilots had mistakenly dropped a bomb or crashed their plane.

They ran out to see what was going on.

“And, all we saw was planes flying around with a big old red ball on the side of them like flies out there.”

That was the beginning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the worst days in U.S. history.

The stories were recalled by retired CW04 Frank Emond and retired Sgt Maj Bill Braddock during a December 2011 interview at the WUWF studios.

Now all in the 90’s, the Pearl Harbor survivors, including retired LCDR Cass Phillips and retired ETC Jay Carraway, will be honored in a ceremony presented by the NAS Pensacola Doolittle Raiders Association this Friday afternoon at 5:00.

The ceremony will be held at the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department hangar, Bldg. 3260, 740 San Carlos, onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola.