CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — He may be 101 years old, but Bob Batterson can still easily recall that terrifying Sunday morning wake-up call.
"I was there," said Batterson, who was a 20-year-old sailor native of Mason City, West Virginia, who was stationed at Navy base Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
At 7:55am, that surprise Japanese attack would launch the United States into World War II.
At first Batterson and his roommates thought the warning siren and loud noise was a drill, but he soon realized instead, it was a massacre.
"It's just a feeling of helplessness," remembered Batterson.
In two waves, Japanese bombers assaulted battleship row at Pearl Harbor. The damage and casualties were devastating.
2,403 Americans were killed. Another 1,178 were wounded.
21 ships were damaged or sunk - including eight battleships.
88 planes were destroyed
During 90-minutes of the frightening attack, Batterson somehow dodged the aerial ambush and helped fight fires. He was lucky avoiding getting hit.
"If one of them (Japanese fighter pilots) had just shipped his nose over, it would have taken us out," said Batterson.
"They were not concerned with taking out enlisted men. They were concentrating on that battleship."
Still, he remembers the unbelievable sights of carnage and tragic sounds of fellow sailors trapped inside the belly of battleships.
"They lived in that hell for three days," said Batterson.
Batterson believes if Japan would have launched a third wave, it would have been game over for the US. We would have lost our freedom that day. Luckily, that didn't happen.
Batterson considers Pearl Harbor a teachable moment to never let our collective guard down.
"To remind us that we've got to remain alert. We have got to get involved," said Batterson.
Instead of divided, Batterson hopes that our country can someone become united, much like we did after 9/11 - the tragic morning of yet another historic surprise attack against the US.
Batterson calls that somber day - this generation's Pearl Harbor.
"It's an event which I have used not as it happened then but applying it to your future,"
In Batterson's eyes, that future depends on whether we learn from all the lives lost on that "date which will live in infamy" or be vulnerable to yet another dark day for America.
"This is a good way to make sure that we remember those guys - we don't forget," said Batterson. "They died for us, and we've got to protect this country as best we can."
Services being held on Wednesday:
10 a.m. - Sherrill Veterans Memorial Park.
2 p.m. - USS Lexington Museum.
Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org