Navy veteran and longtime Helena resident Louis William Moran died on Sept. 20 in Billings at age 98.
In 2011, the former sailor sat down with the Independent Record to talk about one of the most infamous days of WWII: the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The bombing would bring the U.S. into the war and shape the course of world history.
Remembering day of infamy
This story was originally published on Dec. 7, 2011.
Louis Moran, then a 23-year-old kid from Conrad, was a sailor on the crew of the USS Honolulu, which was in port at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“Another guy and I were walking from the shop to the recreation center, and we had just gone around the corner of the building and this airplane went by,” Moran said.
It was not quite 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
A second plane came, flying just above the trees, but Moran knew after seeing the first one that the base was under attack. America had entered the war in the Pacific with, as Moran put it, little to go on.
“They got a rude awakening,” he said of soldiers waking up that fateful morning. “Them battleships caught hell.”
The War in the Pacific had begun for America. For thousands of young men, it meant spending the next four or five years on massive, ships in the Pacific, dodging enemy fire and communicating only minimally with the folks back home.
At Pearl Harbor, the battleships were lined up in twos, and were easy targets for the 353 Japanese attack planes, which damaged eight battleships, numerous other ships and 182 aircraft while 2,402 Americans were killed.
Moran’s crew was luckier than most. A bomb blew up underwater just off the port side of the Honolulu, causing minimal damage, and no one on the ship was killed or injured that day.
Moran spent much of the day at his usual duty station, the engine room, a place he described as full of whistles and whines and where smoking was prohibited.
Among the thousands who died that day, many were consumed by the water itself. With all the ships in port, the water had an oily sheen on it, making it almost impossible to swim, Moran said.
As many as 84,000 uniformed military personnel were on the island of Oahu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Today only about 8,000 remain, and only a handful live in Montana.
One national association of Pearl Harbor survivors is shutting down at the end of the year.
At least six…