One of the five remaining survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor lives in Tampa. A Veteran’s Day tribute honored the former Navy sailor.
It’s been over 75 years since the day then-President Theodore Roosevelt labeled “a day that will live in infamy” when 392 Japanese aircraft attacked Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor.
“I can see it in front of me right now as they were coming,” said 96-year old Pearl Harbor survivor, George Kondas. “Those kind of days you don’t forget.”
George was just 20 years old when the Japanese bombs started falling. A third-class gunner’s mate on the USS Tracy, he began to defend his nation.
“My battle station was up on the 50-caliber machine gun up in the flying bridge,” he said, recalling that fateful day.
Friday morning, the day before Veteran’s Day, George was honored for his service to the United States by Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. A crowd of over 100 gathered to hear speeches, patriotic songs and witness an award presentation to Kondas.
“My dad doesn’t see himself as a hero and never talked about it that way,” said his daughter, Kathy Zoumberos, who works at the hospital. “He always that, I was a gunner on a destroyer and that was my job and I had to do what I had to do so I never thought about him that way but I guess I’m more proud.”
Pearl Harbor was not George’s final fight. At the age of 51, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He believes it was due to inhaling all the smoke from the attack on December 7, 1941. His right lung was removed. A few years later, in 1985, cancer returned. This time it was in his prostate.
“I think it was 80 or 82 radiation treatments that killed the tumor on my prostate,” he said. “Fortunate to survive two bouts with cancer.”
He claims his Pearl Harbor experience was tougher than his battle with cancer. His family says the disease was difficult on him, too. His oldest daughter, Carol Alter, was diagnosed with lymphoma in February. She was pronounced cancer-free three weeks…