Army veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor returns to Hawaii for 75th Anniversary of attacks

Posted at 4:18 AM, Dec 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 08:35:36-05

The last known surviving army veteran stationed at Schofield Barracks the morning Japan attacked Pearl Harbor is in Hawaii this 75th anniversary. John Seelie, 94, flew from Tampa International Airport Friday.

"We've had a slogan for years not to forget Pearl Harbor and most of us have lived by that code," said Seelie.

Seelie was just 19 when he enrolled in the United States Army. He was a corporal in the army's 25th infantry, stationed at Wheeler Airfield, about 17 miles north of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese struck Wheeler first.

"It was a very viscous attack. We saw all the planes coming down through the valley and then they peeled off and started firing," recalled Seelie.

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The Japanese destroyed the hangers and rows of U.S. fighter planes, preventing many pilots from flying and fighting back. The airfield was wiped out in 15 minutes.

"A lot of men that died, died in their sleep and didn't even know it happened," said Seelie.

From Wheeler, the Japanese flew south to Pearl Harbor.

"Most people don't understand it. It's hard. If you haven't been there, you can't understand it ... the smell ... the sound," said Seelie.

Seelie says he never looks forward to his return trip to Pearl Harbor, but calls it a duty. He's been to Pearl Harbor memorial ceremonies several times before. This year he's going courtesy of The Greatest Generation Foundation, which makes it possible for war veterans to return to a memorial or service for free.

Seelie will be celebrated and honored while in Hawaii this week. You can following along on his journey on his Facebook page.