Yesterday, December 7th, a number of us went down to Berkeley for lunch
at the famous "Spengers Fish Grotto"- there on 4th St, just off of route 80.
We were there to attend the annual "Pearl Harbor Day Memorial Luncheon"
hosted by the "Ancient Mariners", graduates of the United States Merchant
Marine Academy, Class of 1943.
These men were trained to operate the vessels supplying the war effort in
Europe and the Pacific. Many served in the Navy also.
Over the years the ranks of this group have thinned. This year the event
was moved from the Officers Club at Fort Mason to the much larger facility
at Spengers. Folk from all branches of maritime associated activity were
welcome this year.
Other maritime schools were represented, California Maritime and
Massachusetts Maritime Academies. Unions - the Masters Mates and Pilots,
the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, folk from the Jeremiah O'Brien,
(the restored Liberty Ship familiar to most of us). the Red Oak Victory
ship, now berthed at Richmond. Folk from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maritime
Administration, the Navy League, the Council of Master Mariners and the
Society of Port Engineers. And of course, important riders from the
"Russian River BMW Motorcycle Club".
These"important riders" were Wayne Bonkosky USMC, Skip Epperly USMC, Bern
Woessner USN, John Biggs USN, and our friend Jim Emmons USN, retired CHP
motor officer. (Jim served aboard Navy patrol craft escorting ship convoys
in the Atlantic and aboard the cruiser USS Bremerton in the Pacific).
The MC asked for those who were on Oahu on December 7th to please stand.
Our own John Biggs proudly rose from his seat. John was but two years old
and peacefully sleeping in his home in Wahiawa near Schofield. His Dad, Ted
Biggs, was a Bosn's Mate aboard a Navy Oiler berthed at Pearl. Bosn Ted was
out that morning to get the FPO mail scheduled to arrive aboard the Pan
American World Airways China Clipper that Sunday morning.
With such an assembly of old veteran sailors one can sense the stories
and history by just being in their presence. Some were asked to briefly tell
of their experience. One sailor told of clearing his ship at Pearl, loaded
with gasoline, and then witnessing the Arizona blowing up and beginning to
turn over. From the emotion in his voice, we could sense it was as if he
was still there.
Others were introduced and the MC talked of their personal exploits. A
white haired man stood and we learned he was a submarine commander with many
victories to his credit. Another stood and we learned he was part of the
torpedo boat operation that took General Mac Arthur from Corregidor. One of
our tablemates was an old gentleman seated in a wheelchair - he was just a
humble Navy gun crewman aboard a merchant ship.
I am sure all of us there felt it was a fine way to spend the afternoon
of December 7, 2001.