Louis E. Gore, an 88-year-old Pearl Harbor, Peleliu, Guadalcanal
and Vietnam survivor, rests in the shade after the 70th Annual Pearl
Harbor Day Commemoration at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 2011. Gore served
aboard the USS Phoenix during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and with
1st Battalion, 7th Marines during the Pacific Campaign of World War
II. Gore was once thrown by the concussion of enemy naval fire
causing him to lose his two front teeth during the battle of
Photo by USMC Cpl. Tyler Main
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (12/8/2011) - The 88-year-old man takes
his time to sit down. His face is weathered by the years so
that his distinguishing features tell a story even before he
opens his mouth. He may be slow to move now, but he's still
quick to remember that morning.
He woke up at 7:00
a.m., dressed himself, and went to the mess hall for
breakfast. Business as usual. After breakfast, he went
topside, or above deck. He heard explosions at the North end
of Ford Island. He was curious, but not necessarily alarmed;
“It's probably one of the squadrons doing maneuvers,” he
It was when a plane came straight down the runway and
began firing shots that he realized what was happening.
“It's the Japanese!” someone shouted.
everyone aboard the USS Phoenix rushed to their battle
stations. For 18-year-old seaman Louis E. Gore, that meant
gun turret number four. Gore and his brothers-in-arms fought
long enough to see the USS Arizona burst into flames and
sink to the harbor floor. He remembers seeing many of her
sailors and Marines floating, lifeless, in the water.
The Marines and sailors aboard the Phoenix, for the most
part, were unscathed and were one of the first crews out of
the harbor during the attack, not to escape, but to go
“We were going to track down the carriers
that were launching these planes,” Gore said. “It was the
Phoenix, maybe eight destroyers and few smaller boats. But
after three days of searching, we found nothing, so we came
back to what was left of Pearl Harbor.”
cleaning, and then bodies would surface and we would go
collect them, many of them from the USS Arizona,” Gore said.
Gore returned to Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 2011, with his
two sons, daughter and granddaughter for the first time in about 50
years to attend the 70th
Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Commemoration. He wanted to show his
family where he had fought 70 years ago.
Gore also served as a
corpsman for 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, and actually wore
his Marine Corps ball cap to the ceremony. It was decorated
with different pins and military memorabilia, including one
pin that read, “I've survived damn near everything!”
And he had. While attached to the Marines, Gore fought in
the battles of Peleliu and Guadalcanal. He later served two
tours in Vietnam.
He remembers the great number of
casualties both sides suffered at Guadalcanal and how his
Marine buddies took good care of him when times were tough.
“I remember hearing ‘corpsman up',” Gore said. “That's
the one thing you never wanted to hear at night on that
island. It gives me chills to think about it to this day. My
Marine buddies would say, ‘don't go doc, please don't go.
We'll go get him and bring him back to you.' And they would.
It was hard being a corpsman because many times, you would
want to do something, you were expected to do something, but
there was really nothing I could.”
His family has
heard all of his story dozens of times, if not more, but
they still listen intently, like it's the first they had
ever heard of the events. They know that one day they'll be
forced to remember the story, rather than hear it first
Kim Griffith, Gore's daughter, agrees that this
may be the last time this many Pearl Harbor survivors are at
the annual commemoration, or anywhere for that manner.
According to the United States Department of Veteran
Affairs, more than 850 World War II survivors pass away
every day. The VA also estimated roughly 2,079,000 American
World War II survivors are still living. It's possible that
on the 80th commemoration, there could be no survivors in
“There are things resident in these men's
minds that can't be found anywhere else,” retired Marine
Maj. Jay Burzak said. “Their ability to recount and relate
their experiences needs to be captured and preserved.”
Burzak, a New Hampshire native, grew up listening to his
father's stories of World War II. He's familiar with the
desire to hear the stories again, and perhaps, discover
things that were never shared.
“I wish I had pressed
a little harder (before he died) to find out more of the
things he wouldn't discuss,” Burzak said. “People need to
know those stories. It's our history.”
were hard times for Gore, he prefers sharing these stories
with people. He too understands the importance of passing
these memories down to future generations.
these veterans have stories that you'll never find anywhere
else,” Gore said. “There are still memories of theirs that
they haven't told stories of yet. I know I have vivid
memories, not necessarily nightmares. I haven't yet woke up
screaming or anything like that. I've just always felt that
we were doing what needed to be done. I just wish there were
more people to carry these stories on. And that's all I
really have to say about that ...”
Marine Pearl Harbor survivor, vice president of the Pearl
Harbor Survivors Association and keynote speaker of the
commemoration ceremony, passed a related message to visitors
just before the ceremony ended.
“Those who forget
history, relive it,” he warned.
More photos available below
By USMC Cpl. Tyler Main
Marine Corps Forces, Pacific
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