PROVIDENCE, R.I.–One of the last surviving veterans of the sinking of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor has been reunited with his fallen shipmates.
Raymond Haerry was interred on the ship in a ceremony that his granddaughter says was solemn and beautiful.
Haerry was 19 years old when bombs started falling on his battleship on Dec. 7, 1941. He never returned to Pearl Harbor while he lived because the memories were too painful. As he neared the end of his life, he told his family he’d like to be laid to rest there.
Haerry died Sept. 27 in Rhode Island at age 94. Five Arizona survivors remain.
Haerry’s granddaughter, Jessica Marino, traveled from New Jersey to Hawaii with her family for Saturday’s ceremony. She handed his urn to divers, who placed it within the ship’s sunken hull. Hundreds of sailors and Marines are entombed there.
“That was the point at which I kind of lost it,” Marino said. “It was really sad, but also really sweet to see. It was amazing.”
Only USS Arizona survivors can be interred on the ship. Haerry served for 25 years in the Navy, retiring as a master chief.
He’s the 42nd survivor to rejoin his shipmates, according to the National Park Service.
Spokesman Jay Blount said these ceremonies help bring closure to the families, allow sailors to return to their shipmates and raise awareness of the sacrifices made 75 years ago. The National Park Service and the Navy conducted the interment.
Rear Adm. John Fuller talked about Haerry’s courage — not the absence of fear, but a deep abiding belief in something greater than oneself.
“I can’t help but think about him being reunited into these simple, hallowed spaces. The calm that comes from being again with your crew, and the lessons we can learn from all he taught us,” said Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.
Marino said she knows her grandfather better now.
“I know this part of his life that really did shape him,” she said. “To be a part of getting him back to his ship and with his shipmates, it’s an honor for me.”
Health issues prevented Raymond Haerry Jr. from joining his daughter in Hawaii. It was Haerry Jr. who pieced together the narrative of what happened in Pearl Harbor by asking questions of his father over 50 years.
Haerry was trying to get ammunition when a large bomb detonated, igniting fuel and powder magazines, Haerry Jr. told The Associated Press in October. Most of the bow was instantly separated and the ship was lifted out of the water.
Haerry Jr. said his father swam through flaming waters, sweeping his arms in front of him to push the flames away. He shot at Japanese planes from shore. Later, he helped retrieve corpses from the harbor.
The ship lost 1,177 men, nearly four-fifths of its crew. At first, Haerry’s family was surprised by his request to be laid to rest there, but soon they understood.
“That brotherhood doesn’t go away and as he got closer to the end of life, it resonated with him,” Marino said. “He didn’t want to see the site or relive that disaster, but he wanted to relive that camaraderie.”