A Pearl Harbor eyewitness who greeted visitors at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center for years with charm, a sly wit and a ready laugh died Sunday at age 99, Pacific Historic Parks said on social media.
“It is with our deepest sorrow that we share with you of the death of our beloved Pearl Harbor Survivor, Alfred B. Rodrigues, Sr., our “Uncle Al,” the nonprofit, which helps support the Arizona Memorial, said on Twitter. “… He has touched so many lives and we all have so many fond memories of him. Fair winds and following seas.”
Rodrigues said hello to thousands of tourists and signed as many autographs at the visitor center.
In 2007, the Honolulu man was one of several survivors who regularly volunteered at the center, trading quips with each other and with tourists.
“He’s the old man right here,” Rodrigues, then 87, said on one occasion while cocking his head toward fellow survivor Herb Weatherwax. “How old are you, dad?”
Weatherwax was 90 at the time. The always-smiling Weatherwax died in late 2016 at the age of 99.
Survivors Everett Hyland, who was on the USS Pennsylvania, and Navy corpsman Sterling Cale, who helped remove casualties from the waters of Pearl Harbor after the attacks on Dec. 7, 1941, were part of the group.
Born in Kapaa, Kauai, on Feb. 7, 1920, Rodrigues, the son of a Portuguese father and part-Hawaiian mother, joined the Navy Reserve and was on active duty at Bishop’s Point on the morning of Dec. 7.
He was on watch when he saw the destroyer USS Ward dropping depth charges on an unidentified submarine, according to the National Park Service. Years later the sunken vessel would be confirmed as a Japanese midget submarine trying to enter Pearl Harbor.
At 7:45 a.m., Rodrigues was at breakfast and had just put down his tray when he heard explosions. He and others were issued bolt-action Springfield rifles or .45-caliber pistols.
“We heard yells to shoot the (Japanese pilots) as they had open cockpits,” Rodrigues said in his book, “Diary of a Pearl Harbor Survivor.” “Hell, it was hard enough to shoot the airplane, much less the pilot,” he wrote.
The National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks each year celebrated Rodrigues’ birthday at the visitor center. He had been in failing health for over a year.
Details of services are pending. Pacific Historic Parks said Rodrigues is survived by his children Alfred Jr., Joseph, Ronald, Jimmy, Mary, Stella, Fred, Kalani and Aulani, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren.