Pear Harbor: A survivor's story

At a comemoration ceremony in Wetumpka we hear, "in all those years since then, you still care"

Perser Vann seemed a little surprised that folks would turn out for this annual event marking Pearl Harbor, "We lost a lot of ships."

In memory of those lost, a wreath was tossed off the bridge into the river.

Memories came flooding back to this 83 year old who stood his ground as a youngster - he was coming from breakfast on his ship when the bombing began.   He says, "I was just coming out of the chow hall with a friend and talking and suddenly we got a jolt."

"They called battle stations."

His position was on an empty gun."  He says,  "The ammunition was stored way down below deck..., to prevent fire hazards, because they were going to be working on the ship. And it was opened up for inspection."

And while they waited for ammo.... Vann says, "You could see them coming in low over the water. Those launching torpedoes into the sides of the ships and they were flying...dive bombers." "Your too busy to be scared." "I had to stay there on that gun 72 hours, with this ear just bleeding."

All the noise punctured his ear drum. Unlike some other vets he didn't believe the "sucker punch" came from the Japanese.  He says, "The only thing I blame is why didn't we know this was coming?" "And they let us get caught, not only with our pants down but in war ships in port."

His ship, the Maryland did not sink, but the oklahoma next to them did go belly up, and seamen had to cut open the hull to reach survivors. Today Vann still carries some shrapnel in his wrist and a constant wringing in his left ear... And memories of another time... And the buddies he left behind.

Vann says he almost didn't attend today's ceremony because he was worried about painful memories. But now he says he's glad he did because he wants others to remember and learn from the past.

Reporter: Ashley Anderson