Central Coast Groups Send Pearl Harbor Survivor To Hawaii To Commemorate 75th Anniversary Of Attack
For most of us, December 7th, 1941 is a day we all know from history books, the day the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II.
For Les Lindow, it’s much more than history. The now 95-year-old man was at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Lindow was 19 and on board the USS Maryland, one of the battleships moored at Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
He grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school.
Lindow was sent to Hawaii in March of 1941, and liked being stationed on the Maryland, which was based at Oahu. He was off-duty, and planning to go surfing with friends when the surprise attack began just before 8 a.m.
His primary duty station was working on one of the ship’s big 16 inch guns, which are intended to shell other ships, or shore targets. They couldn’t be used against the attacking planes. Even worse, Lindow says from his post he couldn’t see what was happening. After one of the ship’s anti-aircraft guns was hit with shrapnel, Lindow was ordered up to help take over for its dead and wounded crew.
He was shocked by what he saw, with the battleship Arizona in flames, the Oklahoma capsized, and the water literally on fire from fuel oil as it leaked from the damaged ships. He says even though they were surrounded by explosions, shrapnel, and gunfire, they were so busy they didn’t have time to get scared.
After the attacks second wave left, the young sailor got his first chance to absorb what had occurred. Of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor the morning of the attack, four were sunk, and four suffered major damage. The Maryland suffered two hits, but didn’t sink.
Lindow spent the next few days as part of the crew working to cut through the hull of the capsized Oklahoma, to try to rescue trapped sailors. They rescued dozens, but more than 400 others died. Lindow spent much of World War II on the Maryland, fighting in some of the Pacific War’s biggest battles.
After the war, he worked in the oil industry, and in home heating and air conditioning. He earned his private pilot’s license, and flew as a volunteer for the non-profit “Doctor without Borders” group. He and his daughter are in Hawaii for a week of ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Two Central Coast organizations, VFW Post 2814, and the Honor Flight Hub of the Central Coast, paid for their trips. Lindow says he hasn’t been to the Pearl Harbor Memorial since the 1960’s, and admits he isn’t sure what to expect. He says while there are some painful memories, he hopes the visit will also bring back thoughts of the buddies he served with who are now gone.