On December 7th, 1941, the servicemen stationed at Pearl Harbor fell victim to one of the most devastating attacks to ever take place on American soil. Japanese fighters flew in on the harbor in an attempt to lay waste to the ships moored at Battleship Row. While over 2,400 servicemen perished in the attack, many more survived and lived on to commemorate and honor their fallen brethren 75 years later, during the milestone anniversary in 2016. Among those survivors was Everett Hyland, a former sailor on the USS Pennsylvania who celebrated his 94th birthday on March 17th, 2017.
Hyland and Pearl Harbor
At 18 years old, Hyland found himself amidst one of the United States’ darkest days. While working on the deck of the Pennsylvania (BB-34), which was dry-docked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Hyland watched as fighters flew overhead, bombing nearby battleships and dropping torpedoes to maximize damage. The mighty ship was among the first to fire back on the incoming fighters, and though she ultimately survived the attack, some of her crew weren’t so lucky.
By the end of the attack, the Pennsylvania suffered 15 deaths—including the ship’s executive officer—and 38 injuries along with 14 servicemen who were considered MIA. Among the wounded survivors was Everett Hyland.
Hyland survived Pearl Harbor, but he didn’t do so unscathed. During the invasion, he was supplying ammunition to the mounted anti-aircraft guns on the ship. As these guns were the last lines of defense for the Americans on the ground, Japan was sure to target them, and the deck of the Pennsylvania was one of the last to be hit. The ship suffered moderate damage, with one bomb in particular nearly killing Hyland.
The attack left the young sailor badly injured, shrapnel from the blast damaging his left leg and causing the loss of part of his left elbow and biceps. Flash burns from the explosion covered his body, especially his uncovered arms, legs, and part of his face. For nine months, he recovered in a hospital, pulling through to deliver an important message to the generations that have succeeded him.
At Hyland’s 94th birthday bash, following 24 years of volunteer service at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the aged sailor had words of wisdom on how he survived so long. His advice was simple: “Stay alive… and have a good wife.”
Even at his age, Hyland continues to retell the events of Pearl Harbor, adding another level of detail to the already incredibly in-depth World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor. He’s not shy to shake hands with those who visit, recount his time on the Pennsylvania, and help remember the more than 2,400 servicemen who perished during the attack.
Hyland is his own bit of living history and so long as he can, the aging sailor will continue to visit the site every Sunday to meet and greet the guests who come to honor him and his fallen comrades.