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78 Years Later, Arizona Pearl Harbor Survivors Live To Tell Their Tale

By Phil Latzman
Published: Friday, December 6, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2019 - 12:19pm

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Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (from left) with Pearl Harbor survivors Dick Fulton and Jack Holder.

The population of people who even remember Dec. 7, 1941, is dwindling fast, and we’re down to only a precious few left who actually survived that day in Hawaii and lived long enough to tell their stories. As it turns out, at least two of them are here in Arizona.

Earlier this year, we introduced you to former Navy machinist Jack Holder, 98, of Sun Lakes.

Phil Latzman/KJZZ
Pearl Harbor Survivor Jack Holder, 98, of Chandler.

“My section had just fell in for muster. When the section leader started roll call we heard a screaming aircraft — and moments later a horrible explosion. We ran outside and the hangar besides us received the first bomb that fell in Pearl Harbor,” Holder said. 

Holder, who recently celebrated his 98th birthday, admitted that it decades to even talk about the harrowing experience.

“Until five or six years ago, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t even my golfing buddies I was a World War II vet. But I met a young lady, she started asking me a lot of questions and says ‘You’ve gotta come out of the closet,’” Holder said.“It’s changed my viewpoints on a lot of things — and I guess a relief for me and actually, it’s an enjoyment.”

As it turns out, there’s another Arizona survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona.

Norvan R. Fulton joined the Navy in 1940, 10 days after graduating high school.

Dick as he likes to be called, eventually made his way to Hawaii and was there on the day that will forever live in infamy.

“I was sitting in my bunk. It was Sunday morning and I was sleeping in. Didn’t stay there long!” he said. 

What happened next said Fulton was indelible.

“They strafed the building we were in. I’ll never forget the sound of the bullets pecking the metal roof. You’ll never forget the sound. It’s always there," Fulton said. 

Phil Latzman/KJZZ
Pearl Harbor Survivor Dick Fulton, 98, of Chandler.

Did he think he was going to die that day?

”Didn’t have time. Went too fast. Everything was so busy. After the 7th, we hauled ammunition for 3 days and 3 nights,” Fulton said.

Fulton says he lives on to tell his war story for future generations to hear first hand.

“You see a lot of them running around here, about that tall. A lot of kids. That’s what the whole thing was all about. Those little kids so they could grow up," he said. 

Fulton is now 98 years old and lives in Chandler. He and Holder were recently honored in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. 

Fulton is scheduled to be on hand for ceremonies at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on Saturday. Although fewer and fewer remain, veterans groups are hopeful of finding more Pearl Harbor survivors.

As the Greatest Generation fades away, we’re hoping to keep their memories alive. If you know of someone who would like to remembered for their service in World War II, write to Phil Latzman at [email protected].

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