Local News

Friday, Dec 07 2012 03:03 PM

Survivors tell of attack during Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The combined JROTC programs from Bakersfield, South and West high schools escort the American flag to be folded and placed at the Veterans Memorial at Union Cemetery during the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony Friday morning.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Pearl Harbor survivors Al Rodriquez, left, and Joseph Licastro salute the American flag during the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony held at Union Cemetery.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Pearl Harbor survivors Joseph Licastro, right, and Al Rodriquez, left, carry the American flag to be placed at the Veterans Memorial at Union Cemetery Friday

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    West High Navy JROTC members Cassandra Ringleman, left, and Kla Vazquez, far right, escort Ruth Boone, second from left, and Lonnie Johnson to place a wreath at the Kern County Veteran's Memorial in downtown Bakersfield during Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony Friday. Their husbands, Roger Boone and Roy Johnson, were Pearl Harbor survivors but have passed away.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bob Otto, left, and Al Garcia play taps during the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony held at Union Cemetery.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Two World War II veterans who survived Pearl Harbor, Al Rodriquez, left, and Joseph Licastro, shake hands at the end of the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony held at Union Cemetery on Friday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Richard, foreground, and Stuart Seiden, sons of Hy Seiden who was a Pearl Harbor survivor and had been a leader in the annual Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony, ring the Navy bell concluding the ceremony at the Kern County Veteran's Memorial in downtown Bakersfield Friday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Richard Seiden holds a photograph of his father, Hy Seiden, who was a Pearl Harbor survivor and had been instrumental, until he passed away, in organizing the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony at Union Cemetery. The ceremony is now called The 2012 Hy Seiden Memorial Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The men stationed at Pearl Harbor awoke Dec. 7, 1941 to a chaotic world filled with the crackle of machine guns, fiery explosions and the thunder of bombs as enemy planes raced overheard.

They did not falter before this onslaught, but instead raced into action.

Joseph Licastro at first thought the planes were flown by U.S. airmen because they sometimes buzzed low over the barracks to awake the men sleeping there. He soon realized it was instead an act of warfare, and he grabbed a pistol and fired upon the planes.

Licastro and other survivors of the attack are dwindling in number as the years go by, and a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony held in Union Cemetery on Friday was sparsely attended. Marc Sandall, who hosted the ceremony, said the size of the crowd wasn't what mattered, calling it "small but mighty."

Sandall gave a brief synopsis of the attack, in which 2,388 Americans were killed, 21 ships sunk and 164 planes destroyed. The day was a nightmare for those on the island.

Al Rodriguez was throwing darts on the USS Bobolink, a mine sweeper, early the morning of Dec. 7. He saw the approaching planes and realized by the "Rising Sun" insignia on them that they wer enemy fighters.

"Everything was chaos," Rodriguez said.

It took a while to get the mine sweeper moving because it was equipped with a steam engine, but once it got moving they assisted other ships and afterward swept the harbor for mines.

Ruth Boone, widow of Carl Boone, who was a survivor of the attack, said her husband was relaxing after having played the trumpet in a Battle of the Bands the night before. Carl, who went by the name of Roger, was looking forward to hanging out with the trumpet player on the USS Arizona on Dec. 7.

He never got that chance. The Arizona was destroyed and sank with 1,177 officers and crewmen killed.

Ruth Boone said her husband had volunteered in 1939 or 1940 and chose Hawaii as the place where he'd like to be stationed. She said he always used to tell her how lucky he was to be there because he had lots of opportunities to play in different bands.

During the attack, Roger Boone and others grabbed guns. Ruth Boone said there was a rumor the Japanese were invading the island, so the men were incredibly jumpy.

"They were shooting at anything that moved," she said.

Roger Boone and other servicemen lived in tents outside the barracks after the attack. He was eventually transferred to Guadalcanal, then back to the U.S., where he met Ruth Boone at Gardner Field in Taft.

But his wartime travails weren't over, Ruth Boone said. Her husband was sent to Europe, where he flew cargo planes.

He was shot down behind German lines.

Roger Boone eventually made his way back to France, where he was saluted by none other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and other dignitaries upon his return. Ruth Boone said that was probably the highlight of Roger Boone's military service.

Sandall, the host of the ceremony, said it's important to keep in mind the bravery of those who fought 71 years ago. It was a devastating day for the country, and one that Major Mike Lynch, a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, prayed will never happen again.

"Hasten the day when there will be no more wars and all your children will learn to live together in peace," Lynch prayed.

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