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Veterans Day 2010: The Pearl Harbor survivor 'We heard the bombs... it wasn't a drill'

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

When Ed Crews first came home after World War II, there were no parades. But today, he will be the grand marshal for the Georgetown Veterans Day parade.

An Army veteran, Crews, 93, was stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on Oahu on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

The station was one of the targets for Japanese bombers and was attacked minutes before the installations around Pearl Harbor.

“We were inside eating breakfast,” Crews said. “A couple of guys who had seen the planes came in and were asking if there were any maneuvers that were taking place. When we heard the bombs, we knew it wasn’t a drill. I went outside and the first thing I saw was one of the [Japanese] planes flying down toward the hangar.”

More than 2,400 were killed that day, and nearly 20 American ships were sunk or severely damaged.

Crews has taken part in Georgetown’s parade before, but today will be his first time as grand marshal.

“It’s nice,” Crews said. “I’m glad that people turn out to remember the veterans and the sacrifices that were made.”

“It’s an honor to have Mr. Crews as our grand marshal,” Georgetown City Council Member Paige Sawyer said. “And we are hoping to have more World War II veterans in our parade. The World War II veterans are the oldest survivors of our military conflicts. It will be a great way to honor them.”

Crews has lived in Georgetown since 1955. He built a career in retail management and worked at DeBordieu in the years following his retirement. He and his wife have two children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. A third child died many ago.

Crews served in the Pacific Theater following the attack on Pearl Harbor and was involved in island campaigns like Saipan and Tinian. He was on Okinawa prior to Japan’s formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.

Combat deaths for the United States in World War II are estimated at 292,131 with an additional 671,801 wounded. Those sacrifices have helped earn those who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II the moniker of the “Greatest Generation.”

But the passing years have taken their toll.

“There are fewer and fewer of us left,” Crews said. “Every reunion seems to get smaller.

And there are a lot of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Not many are walking around on their own.”

Georgetown’s Veterans Day parade begins at 4 p.m. in East Bay Park and continues up Front Street to Wood Street.

Following the parade, veterans are invited to visit the military room at the Georgetown County Museum to see the artifacts, uniforms and other memorabilia, according to Jill Santopietro, museum director.

“We’re hoping for a large turn out,” parade chairman Richard Hathaway said. “We’re also asking for [veterans’] families and friends to line up on Front Street and salute our veterans on this special occasion when our country remembers them and their sacrifices.”

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