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San Clemente Remembers Pearl Harbor

Navy veteran describes his role at the scene 70 years ago, and San Clemente Villas presents a memorial wreath at Park Semper Fi.

Richard Oyler slept in on Dec. 7, 1941. He was only 18, so he didn't go on shore with the other sailors that much.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor started, he was filling in for a chief yeoman on his ship, the USS Curtiss, a seaplane tender. The yeoman had gone ashore on Oahu for dental work.

Oyler was sitting next to an open cargo hatch when he saw something hurtle down onto the deck of the neighboring ship, the USS Utah. When it exploded, he knew he was in for "more excitement than I have ever experienced in my life, or ever have since."

"One thing I remember most of all was the noise," Oyler recalled Wednesday.

He sprang to his station and spent the battle as the captain's "talker," tailing the officer with communications headphones, repeating the man's barked orders to make sure his fellow sailors heard the calls.

Exactly 70 years later, Oyler stood at Park Semper Fi overlooking the San Clemente Pier, addressing fellow veterans and San Clemente residents at a brief Pearl Harbor Memorial set up by and the San Clemente Heritage Foundation that oversees the park.

"Oftentimes, people get the sense that it was a Japanese victory," Oyler told the crowd. "And, in a sense, it was... But all those ships, the fleet, they fought back. The air was full of anti-aircraft ammunition. We took 29 of the aircraft."

San Clemente Villas presented a memorial wreath for the monument, and the crowd heard speeches by retired Brig. Gen. Fred Flo and Frank Denison of the 101st Airborne--both World War II vets.

James Schumaker December 08, 2011 at 06:30 PM
I think it's wonderful that we are remembering Pearl Harbor in San Clemente, and that there are still folks around from the "Greatest Generation" who can give us their eyewitness account of that day. Most historians agree that the Pearl Harbor attack was a tactical victory for the Japanese, since it put our battleships out of action and resulted in terrible casualties for the American side, but most also agree that in the long run it was a huge strategic blunder for Japan, because it united all Americans as no other event could have. Also, it is a little known fact that in the end the damage to the American Pacific Fleet was not as great as initially believed. The carriers were spared, and the battleships themselves were not a total loss. Most of the battleships that were sunk on December 7 were raised and repaired in time to participate in the last stages of the Pacific campaign. In 1944, these "obsolete" battlewagons achieved a measure of revenge against Japan when they participated in the last battleship-to-battleship action in history, wiping out Admiral Nishimura's Southern Force in the Battle of Surigao Strait (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Surigao_Strait#The_Battle_of_Surigao_Strait_.2825_October.29 ).

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