I met Ernest “Dave” Davenport, retired with 21 years in the Navy, on a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. Dave is a survivor of the World War 2 attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Although it has been 69 years since that fateful morning, the memory of the Pearl Harbor bombing is still sharp. The first attack surprised everyone. Dave and his fellow seamen quickly ran behind a barrier and started shooting. Dave said they were able to take out one of the planes.
“It is important to remember Pearl Harbor and to always be alert. We were not alert on December 7, 1941. We were not alert on 9/11.” Dave told me. As a reminder, he gave me a “Remember Pearl Harbor” lapel pin as part of his personal mission to keep America alert.
After his Navy career, Dave returned to Virginia Beach where he taught high school for 17 years. Dave and his wife of 66 years have three sons and two daughters-in-law accompanying them to the reunion to meet with other members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. They will be at the opening of the new Pearl Harbor Visitors Center this week.
The new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center in Honolulu, Hawaii at Ford Island is one of several collocated historically significant military sites. The brilliant white Pearl Harbor Memorial rests peacefully in Pearl Harbor above the battle ship U.S.S. Arizona lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with many of her crew still entombed. This is where world War ll began for the United States. Standing guard across her stern is the U.S.S. Missouri where the Japanese signed the peace treaty on the deck of the ship. The U.S.S. Oklahoma, Bowfin submarine and Pacific Aviation Museum are also located here.
This is the last Hawaiian reunion planned for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Previously, the group met every 5 years at Pearl Harbor. Many survivors are unable to travel due to illness or advanced age. The number of survivors dwindles every year. Born in 1921, Dave was 20 years old on the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack. He is a spry 89 years old today with a twinkle in his eye. Many of the others on duty that morning were older.
The Pearl Harbor Survivor Association is chartered by Congress. When the members are gone, the organization will cease to exist. For Dave and other survivors, it is import for us to learn the lessons from the past and do our part to keep our future secure.
In closing, I asked Dave about his nickname. He said, “In the service, everyone is in a hurry and always rushing. If you had a long name, it got shortened. My name is Ernest but no one was going to use such a long name. So they shortened my last name Davenport to “Dave” and I have been Dave to everyone ever since.”
Learn more about the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in my interview with Mal Middlesworth, former president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and Herbert Weatherwax, Pearl Harbor Survivor and volunteer at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center who tells us why he shares his story with future generations.
Aloha Dave. Welcome back to Hawaii.
I am very grateful to have met several Pearl Harbor survivors on my travels to Hawaii. Many of these soldiers toured the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center last year for the final Pearl Harbor Survivors reunion. As they reach their 90’s it is harder for them to travel, especially long distances. Here are the stories of other Pearl Harbor survivors.
- Bill Temple http://www.aprilmwilliams.com/final-hawaii-reunion-for-pearl-harbor-survivor-william-temple/
- Stan Reynolds http://www.aprilmwilliams.com/pearl-harbor-survivor-stan-reynolds-at-last-reunion/
- Dave Davenport http://www.aprilmwilliams.com/aloha-pearl-harbor-survivor-dave-davenport/
- Herbert Weatherwax http://www.aprilmwilliams.com/pearl-harbor-survivor-herbert-weatherwax/
- Robert Ruffato http://www.aprilmwilliams.com/pearl-harbor-survivor-robert-ruffato-returns-to-hawaii/
- Mal Middlesworth http://www.808talk.com/2009/12/11/mal-middlesworth-remembers-pearl-harbor/