Cleveland man survived Pearl Harbor attack 72 years ago
Saturday marks 72 years since the Pearl Harbor attack. One of the few living survivors is right here in the Tennessee Valley.
Veterans like George Allen, 91, hope the day doesn't fade from America's memory. Allen was just 19 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
"We didn't have a chance to think, really," said Allen of the attack. "We were grabbing out packs and our guns, and taking off to get out of there."
In December 1941, Army Private Allen had been stationed at Pearl Harbor about three months. On the morning of December 7, Allen was up early reporting for kitchen duty -- with strict orders from the head cook.
"He said, 'Allen, there's a 100-lb. bag of potatoes out there. I need them by 9 o'clock,' " so Allen and a buddy sat outside the building on base, peeling potatoes.
When he looked to the sky, he thought he saw a large cluster of birds flying nearby.
"It was Japanese bombers, about 250 of them."
Allen said one of the bombers flew feet from his head. He caught a clear glimpse of the Japanese pilot hanging out of the window.
"He had big goggles on," recalled Allen. "We don't know whether he was saying 'I missed ya' or 'I'll get ya next time.' "
In no times, the bombs were falling; the harbor, exploding.
"Very big explosions. The island was almost shaking," Allen said.
There were 2,402 Americans who died during the attack. As one of the lucky survivors, Allen said his hero that day was the man who told him to grab the potato peeler.
"That cook got up there on the double guns and stayed up there until the attack was over."
Allen served until the end of the war in 1945. He said in his five years of service, he had just five days off. They were the only nights he ever slept in a real bed.
Allen will be honored at a Pear Harbor Remembrance Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at VFW Post #2598, located at 3370 N. Ocoee St. in Cleveland.