“Uncle Herb” Weatherwax, a Pearl Harbor survivor and an always-smiling, much-loved volunteer at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center, died Monday, the Navy said.
The Honolulu native was 99.
“Papa was ready and it was a strong yet peaceful death. As with this ‘Greatest Generation,’ Papa left this earth with dignity and grace,” his daughter, Carrie Weatherwax, said in a Navy release.
Weatherwax was a regular volunteer at the visitor center, gladly chatting with hundreds of tourists a day. He attended the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration Ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack, the Navy said.
His family said it was his final wish.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Weatherwax was an Army draftee with the 298th Infantry Regiment on a weekend pass when he heard explosions and a radio call for all military personnel to report to their stations.
He was on his way to Schofield Barracks when he saw the Arizona engulfed in flames and an overturned USS Oklahoma.
“I was shocked. And, of course, we were confused,” Weatherwax said in August.
He later endured freezing temperatures in the Battle of the Bulge in an area between the artillery bombardments that rained overhead from both sides of the conflict in late 1944 and early 1945. Although he fought against the Germans, he witnessed the start of the war against the Japanese in Hawaii.
Despite that, Weatherwax said in August: “I never did think bad about the Japanese people. It was the leader of the Japanese people that I didn’t think much about.” The goodwill ambassador at the Arizona Memorial added, “I’m the type of person, I don’t have enmity at any other people at all. I don’t hate people. I love people.”
At the time, Weatherwax had recently met Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when she made a first-of-its-kind visit to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Weatherwax said the two had to communicate through an interpreter, but “it was a wonderful thing to get together.”
“She’s the prime minister’s wife, and I think that’s an honor (to meet her),” he said.
In October, Weatherwax and fellow local Pearl Harbor survivor Al Rodrigues were featured in the filming at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Rock the Troops,” which airs tonight on Spike TV, the Navy said.
The Navy said Weatherwax was raised on the outskirts of Hilo and his first job was with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, building roads around Mauna Kea. He also worked for Hawaiian Electric as an apprentice electrician for 30 cents an hour, according to the Navy.