On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Lewis P. Robinson stood on a dock at Pearl Harbor waiting for a boat to return him to the USS Arizona after an overnight shore leave.
The clear blue skies suddenly darkened as a wave of Japanese planes descended, raining bombs on the harbor.
Within minutes, bombs ripped open the 608-foot Arizona, killing 1,177 crew members and sinking the ship.
Today — the 59th anniversary of the attack — Robinson will be reunited with his shipmates when his ashes are interred by divers in the sunken hull of the Arizona.
“He always said that he wanted to go back,” said Robinson’s niece Susan Anderson. “He said make sure when he died, he would be placed on the Arizona.”
Robinson, who died in 1997 at 78, will be the 16th Arizona survivor to be laid to rest in the battleship with the 945 servicemen entombed there.
Of the 337 Arizona servicemen who survived, only 50 are believed to be still living, said Daniel Martinez, a historian for the National Park Service at the USS Arizona Memorial.
A Feeling of Guilt Dozens of other Pearl Harbor veterans have also had their ashes scattered in the harbor’s waters, fulfilling a wish that survivors say expresses a mix of camaraderie, honor, gratitude and guilt.
“It’s a sense of wanting to belong with their shipmates,” said Robert Kinzler, president of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. “It could be a feeling of guilt that they survived while their shipmates passed away.”
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military bases sank or heavily damaged 21 ships, destroyed or damaged 323 aircraft, killed 2,388 military personnel and civilians and wounded 1,178.
Only those assigned to the Arizona at the time of the attack are eligible for interment in the hull of the ship.