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Local World War II veteran recalls attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years later, now 100 years old

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Zoe Dym
World War II veterans arrived at the Daniel K. Inouye Airport on Dec. 3. They were met with a water salute from the HFD, lei, and hula performance to kick off their week-long stay on Oʻahu to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sixty-three World War II veterans arrived on Oʻahu Friday to begin a week-long commemoration for the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The veterans were met with a water salute from the Honolulu Fire Department, lei, and a hula performance at the airport before being escorted to a lū‘au.

They visited bases and schools on the island, and gathered Monday at Pearl Harbor for the veteran parade.

Ralph Matsumoto, 100, was born and raised in Honolulu and is participating in the week’s events. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944 and served as a Japanese interpreter and assisted with ship repair.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Matsumoto was cleaning a pool room when Japanese planes attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The windows blew out and all he could see was smoke.

He was detained for two weeks for being a nisei Japanese. He recalls back on the time, saying, "The company I was serving, a tuna package shipyard, it was taken over by the Marines. They issued us an identification badge with a black ring on it so they know we were Japanese. It was kind of embarrassing." 

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Best Defense Foundation
Veteran Ralph Matsumoto, 100.

Six of the 63 World War II veterans currently visiting Pearl Harbor are survivors of the attack. The youngest veteran in the group is 94 years old.

The veterans will depart at the end of the week after paying a visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The nonprofit Best Defense Foundation organized the reunion and the flight was sponsored by American Airlines.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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