BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — Dec. 7, 2022, marks the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to over 2,400 American lives being taken in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Fortunately, some survivors went on to tell the stories of brave men and women who served on that day and families are working to keep those stories alive as the last surviving sailors pass on.
For Linn Wanbaugh, Dec. 23, 2022, will mark one year without his father’s familiar voice. His father, Earl Wanbaugh, was one of the last survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“You know this is the first day that I haven’t talked to him about it,” said Linn Wanbaugh.
When his father passed away, so many stories died with him. Now Linn Wanbaugh is doing everything he can to keep some of them alive.
“It’s kind of a ‘passing of the guard,’ I guess you could say," said Linn Wanbaugh. "It’s different."
His father enlisted in the Navy in 1939. He served for six years and quickly moved up the ranks to serve as chief. He and his three brothers all fought in World War II — a war he did not know would go down in history on the day of the attack.
“As he said, 'It was just chaos.' He said, 'It was just utter devastation everywhere,'” said Linn Wanbaugh. “His ship took a big couple of bomb hits and one of the guys wanted to go down and look at it. He told the guy, 'This is going to be a long war. I don’t think you need to see that right now.'”
Earl Wanbaugh watched as planes flew over him on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. He helped put out the fires on two ships docked next to his.
But despite the horrors of war, his father loved the Navy.
“Probably the thing that he remembered the most was after the shock wore off, he said he was amazed at how all the men just started doing their jobs. He said he didn’t see a coward that day,” said Linn Wanbaugh.
As the last surviving sailors continue to pass on, Linn Wanbaugh wants people to remember his father in his father’s own words.
“He said, ‘I just did my job,'" said Linn Wanbaugh. "'I just did what I said I’d do,'”