LOS ANGELES — Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. navy survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, assault on Pearl Harbor that plunged the USA into World Battle II, died Wednesday. He was 106.
Chavez, who had been battling pneumonia, died in his sleep within the San Diego suburb of Poway, his daughter, Kathleen Chavez, informed The Related Press.
As lately as final Could he had traveled to Washington, D.C., the place he was honored on Memorial Day by President Donald Trump. The White Home Tweeted a press release Wednesday saying it was saddened to listen to of his passing.
“We had been honored to host him on the White Home earlier this yr,” the assertion stated. “Thanks in your service to our nice nation, Ray!”
Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the Nationwide Park Service at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, confirmed Wednesday that Chavez was the oldest survivor of the assault that killed 2,335 U.S. navy personnel and 68 civilians.
“I nonetheless really feel a loss,” Chavez stated throughout 2016 ceremonies marking the assault’s 75th anniversary. “We had been all collectively. We had been pals and brothers. I really feel near all of them.”
Hours earlier than the assault, he was aboard the minesweeper USS Condor because it patrolled the harbor’s east entrance when he and others noticed the periscope of a Japanese submarine. They notified a destroyer that sunk it shortly earlier than Japanese bombers arrived to strafe the harbor.
By then Chavez, who had labored by the early morning hours, had gone to his close by residence to sleep, ordering his spouse to not wake him as a result of he had been up all evening.
“It appeared like I solely slept about 10 minutes when she referred to as me and stated, ‘We’re being attacked,’ ” he recalled in 2016. “And I stated, ‘Who’s going to assault us?’ ”
“She stated, ‘The Japanese are right here, they usually’re attacking every thing.’ ”
He ran again to the harbor to search out it in flames.
Chavez would spend the subsequent week there, working across the clock sifting by the destruction that had crippled the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet.
Later he was assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks and different tools to war-torn islands throughout the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.
Though by no means wounded, he left the navy in 1945 affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction that left him anxious and shaking.
Returning to San Diego, the place he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outside, a nutritious diet and a strict exercise program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his well being.
“He liked bushes and he dearly liked crops and he knew every thing a couple of plant or tree that you would probably need to know,” his daughter stated Wednesday with a chuckle. “And he lastly retired when he was 95.”
Nonetheless, he wouldn’t speak about Pearl Harbor for many years. Then, on a last-minute whim, he determined to return to Hawaii in 1991 for ceremonies marking the assault’s 50th anniversary.
“Then we did the 55th, the 60th, the 65th and the 70th, and from then on we went to each one,” his daughter recalled, including that till Chavez’s well being started to fail he had deliberate to attend this yr’s gathering subsequent month.
Born March 12, 1912, in San Bernardino, California, to Mexican immigrant dad and mom, Chavez moved to San Diego as a baby, the place his household ran a wholesale flower enterprise. He joined the Navy in 1938.
In his later years, as he turned properly often called the assault’s oldest navy survivor, he’d be approached at memorial companies and different occasions and requested for his autograph or to pose for photos. He at all times maintained that these occasions weren’t about him, nonetheless, however about those that gave their lives.
“He’d simply shrug his shoulders and shake his head and say, ‘I used to be simply doing my job,’ ” stated his daughter. “He was only a very good, quiet man. He by no means hollered about something, and he was at all times nice to all people.”
Chavez was preceded in demise by his spouse, Margaret. His daughter is his solely survivor.
Funeral companies are pending.