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Local Pearl Harbor survivor reflects on the 77th anniversary

Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 20:34:52-05

On the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, our country remembers the day of those Japanese attacks in 1941.

One local veteran is one of only two living Pearl Harbor survivors here in Corpus Christi, and he shared his chilling account of that day with KRIS-TV reporter/anchor Emily Hamilton.

Just after 7 a.m. on a typical Sunday, America was forever changed when the Japanese carried out their first wave of attacks on Pearl Harbor.

“We were sleeping in. The entire fleet was on holiday routine,” Bob Batterson said.

Batterson was a petty officer in the U.S. Navy, and at just 19 years old, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“We thought this was a drill. The noise we heard, we thought it was another drill, and a lot of choice words were bantered around,” Batterson said. “And then suddenly a Japanese torpedo plane flew by, so we knew we were at war. It was no drill.”

The barracks cleared. With Japanese bombs still dropping, Batterson and his brothers in uniform were ordered to start putting out fires and rescuing those who were still alive on land.

“We sort of kept our fingers crossed that they wouldn’t notice us,” Batterson said. “They paid no attention to us. They wanted that battleship.”

He reflected on a Sunday that brought overwhelming feelings of defeat.

“It was a feeling of just helplessness. I just stood there with that water hose in my hand thinking, we’ve lost the war,” Batterson said.

But in the grim hours following the attacks, he relied on faith.

“Of course when you survive, and others have died, there’s that feeling that the good Lord was watching over us,” Batterson said.

Days of silence followed with little contact with the U.S. government.

He said radio waves were a saving grace.

“And then suddenly the radio station came back on the air, and it was a great relief.”

After the Pearl Harbor attacks, the U.S. Navy was in desperate need of pilots.

Batterson headed to the University of Southern California for flight training. He then went on to earn his wings right here in Corpus Christi at Waldron Field.

“I flew the Grumman F6F, which is the Hellcat. Good plane. Great plane,” he reflected.

Now in his late 90s, Batterson still teaches local youth about our nation’s rich history.

“To make sure that our country remains as strong as it is today, and our kids and grandkids have the same good future ahead of them that we had,” he said.

Bob Batterson gives tours of the Pearl Harbor exhibit on the USS Lexington every Monday at 10:30 a.m.​