A Pearl Harbor survivor was laid to rest during an ash scattering ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam July 24.
Family members of Yeoman 1st Class Alphonse “Al” Vanden Brul scattered his remains, along with a portion of his late wife’s, into the harbor where he will be reunited with shipmates who lost their lives during the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Survivors liaison, Jim Taylor, started the ceremony by giving a short overview of Vanden Brul’s life.
Al, along with his twin brother John, was born Nov. 28, 1918 during a flu epidemic in Rochester, N.Y. and later both joined the Navy Reserve at the age of 17. Due to the approaching war the brothers were called to active duty in April 1941.
In June 1941 Vanden Brul and his brother were sent to join the Navy’s newest ship USS Solace (AH-5), a hospital ship stationed out of Pearl Harbor.
During the morning of the attacks he was assigned to duties in the laundry room. As he was getting ready to head out for church, some of the nurses onboard looked out of the ship and saw USS Utah get hit and roll over.
Later that day boats were pulling alongside the Solace with casualties, some alive and others dead. His job was to put his living shipmates into hospital beds and take the deceased to the stern of the ship to be identified later, along with the gruesome burning of blood drenched bed sheets.
“Vanden Brul family is quite amazing, four brothers in the Navy during World War II,” said Jim Taylor. “Herbert earned a degree in law after leaving the Navy, Robert actually retired from the Navy, John and Al worked at Eastman Kodak after receiving their honorable discharges and retired in the early 1980s.”
Alphonse passed away May 29, 2013. Family members recalled Vanden Brul always talking about the attacks Dec. 7, 1941, particularly during the last few years of his life, which is the reason they returned his remains to one of the attack sites.
“Al would tell you he was not a hero; he was simply doing his job as everyone was expected to do, nothing more, nothing less” said Capt. Lawrence Scruggs, deputy commander of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility “He embodies the spirit and tradition of our rich Navy, his life is an inspiration to us in this time of war and challenge. I stand here today to say, shipmate … we have the watch.”
Family members including his daughters attended the ceremony which included a presentation of a flag flown over the memorial, playing of taps, and a three-volley rifle salute by the Pearl Harbor Honors and Ceremonial Guard.