MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Ariz. -- “Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Station personnel and veterans gathered at the station chapel Dec. 7 to honor Pearl Harbor veterans and listen to the day’s events from a Pearl Harbor survivor.
Eighty Four-year-old Virgil Hengl, a Pearl Harbor survivor, was the special guest for the station’s Pearl Harbor day commemoration ceremony.
Lt. Col. Stanley Salamon, station executive officer, started the ceremony by talking about the natural disasters the United States has faced recently. And how the U.S. has pulled together when the U.S. suffered from a surprise attack in Pearl Harbor attack occurred and joined forces with other countries to fight in World War II.
After a few words from Salamon, he introduced the special guest for the ceremony.
Hengl started by recollecting his activities the day of the attack.
“I was cleaning out my locker, when out of no where, general quarters sounded,” said Hengl, a native of Sidney, Neb. “Now it was Sunday, and at first, I was confused because general quarters isn’t normally sounded on Sunday. Then the possibility came into my mind that maybe we were getting attacked.”
Hengl said the sailors had heard a rumor of a Japanese attack.
“Well we thought, ‘let them attack us, we have a bunch of Marines here who will kick their (butt),’” he added.
Hengl went on to describe in full detail other occurrences that he encountered the day of the attack.
Despite the gruesome attack on Pearl Harbor, Hengl believes it wasn’t all for the bad.
Whenever a tragedy happens, it seems that something good usually comes out of it,” said Hengl, who served as a chief aviation mechanic aboard the USS Tennessee in Pearl Harbor. “Because of the attack, the girl I had a crush on sent me a letter to see how I was doing. We have now been married sixty three years and have two sons and a daughter.”
Yuma Mayor Larry Nelson finished the ceremony by declaring Dec. 5-9 Pearl Harbor Survivor Week.
Hengl said he is able to remember the detail of the events 64 years ago because the impact it had on him.
“Something like that you remember because everything from that day scars your mind,” said Hengl.
Hengl moved to Yuma in 1960 and retired after teaching for 23 years.
Lt. Col. Phillip W. Woody, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 commanding officer, said he attended the ceremony because he feels there is a lot to learn from the past.
“We must learn from the mistakes in the past or we are destined to make them again in the future,” said Woody. “We can learn a lot from the great generation of that day. You can’t pass up anytime you have an opportunity to speak to living history.”