A Pearl Harbor defender and well-known volunteer at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center — one of just two regulars that remained — has died at age 96.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news that Pearl Harbor survivor ‘Uncle’ Everett Hyland passed away on July 23,” the National Park Service said on social media.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Hyland was a crew member of the battleship USS Pennsylvania, the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, and immediately reported to his battle station when the attack began.
“If we ever go to war, the last place in the world I wanted to be trapped was down in the bowels of the ship,” the longtime Honolulu resident said in a Navy interview. “I wanted to be top side, so if something happened, I could get off it. So I volunteered for antenna repair squad. I was with the radio division.”
When general quarters sounded, he realized there was nothing to be done at his battle station, so he and others began collecting ammo for a 3-inch 50-caliber anti-aircraft gun. The “Pennsy” was in Drydock No. 1 at the time.
“We took one hit. The one that hit our ship just happened to be where we were,” Hyland recalled.
The 18-year-old was so badly wounded by the aerial bomb that his own friends did not recognize him, the park service said. Flash burns covered his body. He had an ankle wound, a chipped bone in his right leg, his right hand was ripped open, he had a bullet hole through his right thigh, five pieces of shrapnel in his left leg, a chunk blown out of his left thigh — among other injuries.
He spent nine months in recovery, and then went back to sea, the park service said. Since 1995, Hyland had volunteered at the visitor center weekly, sharing his story with visitors.
“Uncle Ev” had a dry sense of humor and heard a lot of sea stories from the Dec. 7 attack but always “took great pride in telling what he knew and what he actually saw rather than enlarging the story,” said Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the Arizona Memorial.
His second wife was Japanese and Martinez said “Everett used to get these questions from the visitors — ‘How do you feel about the Japanese?’ He said, ‘Well, my wife’s right over there — why don’t you ask her?’ ” Hyland was a strong proponent of reconciliation, Martinez said.
Two other Dec. 7 survivors who were regular volunteers died in recent years. Herb Weatherwax died in 2016 at age 99 and Al Rodrigues died early this year, also at 99. Survivor and volunteer Sterling Cale now is 97.
At last year’s observance of the Dec. 7 attacks, Hyland returned the salute of a passing Navy warship on behalf of all Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans because there were then so few left.
For the first time in many years, not a single USS Arizona survivor of the five still living was present for the commemoration.
“It is really the twilight of the Pearl Harbor survivor volunteers at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center,” Martinez said.