Kern County honors Pearl Harbor survivors

Kern County honors Pearl Harbor survivors »Play Video
Gordon Boles, a retired member of the Navy who survived Pearl Harbor, attends a memorial Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Bakersfield to mark the 70th anniversary of the attack.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Local Pearl Harbor veterans are working to keeping the memory of that fateful day alive as survivors shared experiences during a series of memorials Wednesday.

The events were held at Union Cemetery, the Veterans Memorial in downtown Bakersfield and at Minter Field in Delano.

Seventy years ago, 2,000 men and women lost their lives in an attack that caught them unprepared. When the smoke cleared, four battleships were sunk and almost 200 planes were destroyed. Those who were in the middle of the battle shared their memories on Wednesday in Kern County.

"I could see the bullets coming up to the deck," said Gordon Boles, a retired member of the Navy who survived Pearl Harbor.

Boles shared frightening memories from, when he was a boy of 16, Japan attacked the unprepared U.S. forces in Hawaii.

"I couldn't move, and I was just scared to death," said Boles.

Boles was on the USS Pyro, which was hit during the first wave of attacks from Japanese forces. Boles was shot in the arms and chest but amazingly he survived.

So did Joseph Licastro, an Army sergeant stationed inland at Wheeler Army Air Field. His base was hit in the second of two devastating attacks.

"No one knew what was happening till you looked up and saw a dive bomber coming at you. The big red balls, you knew right off what it was, a Japanese airplane," said Licastro.

He said he took cover but still remembers the sound of bullets hitting the ground.

"I could see the gunner swinging the gun towards me, and I didn't like that," Licastro remembered.

Both Boles and Licastro were honored at Union Cemetery on Wednesday morning. It was the first memorial of the day to honor Pearl Harbor survivors, and it included a 21-gun salute.

At noon, people gathered at the Veterans Memorial in downtown Bakersfield, including the wives of Pearl Harbor survivors.

"I was a jitterbug on the USO tour, I was a riveter, I entertained the troops," said Ruth Boone.

Boone, now a widow, married a Pearl Harbor survivor and shared his memories.

"The main thing that he remembered was how unprepared they were, they were so scared, they didn't have things to eat, water was scarce, they just wandered around for days," said Boone. Now Boone shares those memories with her great granddaughters in hopes of keeping the stories alive.