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AZ resident Jack Holder, one of the last known Pearl Harbor survivors, dies at 101

By Phil Latzman
Published: Monday, February 27, 2023 - 12:59pm
Updated: Wednesday, March 1, 2023 - 8:16am

Jack Holder
Phil Latzman/KJZZ
Retired Navy pilot Jack Holder at his home in Sun Lakes in 2021.

One of the last known survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks has died here in Arizona.

Jack Holder passed away Sunday at the age of 101.

Holder was a 19-year-old Navy machinist serving in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

He described the events of that fateful morning in an interview with KJZZ News back in 2019.

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

Holder described running from a bombed barracks to escape the barrage, not knowing if they'd continue.

“We had no idea where the Japanese fleet were or if they planned to return, but every aircraft or every ship noise we heard, we figured it was them.”

As a Navy pilot, Holder went on to fly more than 100 missions on both the Pacific and European fronts of World War II. For his service, Holder received two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals and a presidential citation.

Despite his heroism, for several decades Holder was reticent to tell his story. Before returning to Hawaii to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attacks in 2021, Holder told me that changed when he realized how much it meant to hear a first-hand account of history, especially to younger generations as a frequent speaker at schools.

"It feels wonderful. When I address these young kids in school and I see that they enjoy it, it’s a great pleasure to me," he said. 

A Texas native, Holder retired to the Sun Lakes community south of Chandler.

Bob Dalpe was a friend of Holder's and a fellow member of Arizona's Veterans Hall of Fame.

"Jack was emblematic of the Greatest Generation," Dalpe said. "The last decade of his life, Jack traveled across the U.S. keeping history alive to thousands of people."

Holder returned to Hawaii to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attacks in 2021.

Jack Holder
Phil Latzman/KJZZ
Jack Holder when he entered the Navy as an 18-year-old in 1940.

Arizona History