“We noticed a lot of black smoke coming off of Ford Island, and just about that time, the Japanese started attacking Battleship Row,” Elmer Luckett recalled during a 2017 interview with radio station KMOX in St. Louis, MO. Realizing that Pearl Harbor was under attack was a memory he would never forget. Serving aboard the destroyer USS Chew (DD-106), Luckett was standing topside chatting with a buddy when the first bombs struck on the morning of December 7, 1941.
More than 76 years later, after surviving the Pearl Harbor attack and the war that followed, Elmer Luckett became a casualty of time when he passed away on March 2, 2018 at the age of 97.
Elmer Luckett wasn’t a man to keep his experiences at Pearl Harbor to himself, and the KMOX interview was just one of many that will help keep his legacy alive.
As the Japanese flew into Pearl Harbor, dropping bombs and torpedoes on the ships of Battleship Row, Luckett rushed to his post in the Chew’s forward engine room. Below decks, the Perry Officer Machinist Mate had to do his job efficiently while trying to silence the dread that his ship could be next. Tending to the engines, he simply worked and listened as the attack continued outside.
Luckett’s worst fears didn’t come to pass. The USS Chew wasn’t hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Luckett went on to continue the fight in the Pacific. His time at war is detailed and recorded in the interviews he’s given over time and in his own words he’s described his belief that the United States must not allow itself to be unprepared for another attack like Pearl Harbor. Everyone who knew Elmer Luckett are quick to attest that, despite his age, he was sharp and always able to vividly recall the details of the morning of December 7, 1941.
Luckett started his naval career when he was 20 years old, and he was immediately stationed in Hawaii not long before the Pearl Harbor attack. Up until 2017, he was known for attending commemorative ceremonies in honor of Pearl Harbor Day every year. For the 76th anniversary, the aging veteran opted to remain home and “take it easy.”