Pearl Harbor Survivor Passes Away at 102

( – More than 80 years ago, kamikaze pilots with the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service did the unthinkable and attacked the US military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The terrorist attack was the most deadly in American history at the time, killing 2,403 people. One of the last survivors has now died.

On March 19, Richard C. Higgins died at the age of 102 at his granddaughter’s home in Bend, Oregon. He joined the Navy in 1939 after high school. The military branch trained him to be an aviation mechanic. In early 1941, the Navy sent him to Pearl Harbor, where he worked as a radioman.

Two days before the December 7, 1941 attack, Higgins returned to base after being away on a patrol mission. On the day of the bombing, he was asleep in his bunk when the Japanese struck. As people died around him, he ran to where the Navy’s planes were stored and helped push them out of the way.

The New York Times reported Higgins later said that when the bombing began, he looked outside and saw a plane with “big red meatballs on it,” and there wasn’t a “doubt” about what was happening. The US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequently became the only country to ever drop nuclear bombs on an adversary. Higgins remained in the Navy and fought in the war. He left in 1959 after 20 years in service to his country.

Later in life, he spoke about the day that lives in infamy on social media and at schools. He had an Instagram account called “Quarantine Chats with Gramps,” where he spoke about his life. His grandchildren updated his status after his death and said he had gone “home to be with Jesus.” They said, “He was a humble, generous, funny and loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend.”

Kathleen Farley, the California chair of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, estimated there are about 22 Pearl Harbor survivors remaining.

Higgins is survived by his son, daughter, two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

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