On December 7, 1941 William “Bill” Temple was a 20 year old in the U.S. Air Force working in Pearl Harbor when he was surprised by the Japanese attacks. This week he returns to Hawaii for the first time since he left in 1945. Bill is here for the final Hawaii reunion of members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Membership in the organization, chartered by congress, is open to those who were on active duty in Pearl Harbor during the World War II attack. His youngest daughter Joan joined him on this visit. Bill decided to make the trip this year as it was important to him to attend this last reunion of the Pearl Harbor Survivors in Hawaii.
One of the sights he looks forward to visiting on the trip is his old barracks at Wheeler Air Force Base. He was also stationed at Kualoa. Bill says, back in those days, he would walk out to Chinaman’s Hat.
Bill’s mind is sharp as ever and he keeps up with news and politics.
“The idiots in Washington better get God back into the country or they can kiss it goodbye. Republicans or Democrats – if they don’t have God in what they do, they are wasting their time.” he said.
Bill lived in Virginia Beach his whole life. He was not impressed with his first visit to Waikiki Beach.
“When I got there, the first thing I said was “I left Virginia Beach for this?””
I think he warmed up the the island of Oahu during his stay. When Bill was stationed in Hawaii, he took up surfing and body boarding and was pretty good at it. Not surprising as his teacher was Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku.
After his tour In the service, Bill returned to Virgina Beach, married and raised a family. His diverse career included gas station owner, carpenter, electrical engineer and hospital employee. At 91 years young, he is state chairman of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and the group’s chaplin.
A deeply religious man, Bill credits his long life and good health to God. At 91 years young, he lives alone, still drives, has 20/20 vision and is in generally good health. Besides his work with the Virginia state Pearl Harbor Survivor Association, Bill is active with his church and local army base.
Bill and Joan have nearly a week of organized activities planned for the attending Pearl Harbor Survivors including a boat ride around Pearl Harbor. This will be an emotional time for these veterans. The Pearl Harbor Survivors are getting a hero’s welcome. Joan showed me their schedule for the visit and there is not much free time. Tomorrow they look forward to renting a car and doing some sight-seeing. Bill looks forward to seeing the Pali again. Hawaii has changed in the 60+ years since Bill last saw her. I am interested to know what he thinks of things today.
Joan says her father keeps her on her toes.
“He calls my voice mail every morning to see if I have updated it to the correct date. Sometimes he catches me,” she smiled.
Bill’s only complaint is when he has nothing to keep him busy. He is active on the computer and emails often. He works with local Indians and learned their native crafts. Bill fashions jewelry, spears and other objects. The spear pendant he is was wearing is one of his works.
Bill keeps such and active schedule, it would be hard for someone half his age to keep up. Approaching his 92 birthday, Bill’s daughter says,
“He will live to be 100 years old. You just watch!”
This is a challenge I look forward to. Welcome back, Bill.
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 four other Pearl Harbor survivors.
- 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/