Ludwig “Lou” Radil served for six years as a yeoman in the United States Navy. During his time as a sailor, he was present for the tragic events of December 7th, 1941 and, after Japan surrendered and the war ended, he also witnessed the first post-World War II nuclear tests that were carried out in the South Pacific. On May 5th, 2018, Lou Radil passed away, joining many of his fellow Pearl Harbor survivors.
Lou Radil at Pearl Harbor
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, Lou Radil was serving aboard USS California (BB-44), setting up chairs for Sunday church services. As he and his crewmates worked, a Japanese aerial striking force of bombers and fighters launched their surprise attack. As the bombs started to drop, California sustained significant damage from a Japanese torpedo. After the captain gave the order to abandon ship, Radil was able to escape into the waters of Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by burning oil slicks on the surface of the harbor’s water, the memory of the Pearl Harbor attack was vividly embedded into the 22-year-old sailor’s memory.
Radil escaped to Ford Island through the inferno, but that wasn’t the end of the horrors of Pearl Harbor. The following day, having living through the tragedy, he pushed through his shock and helped recover the bodies of nearly 100 sailors from his ship who had been killed during the attack.
World War II and After
Radil remained rather tight-lipped about his time in the service, though it’s known that he spent portions of World War II stationed at Pearl Harbor. He was more open about his time after the war, specifically aboard the USS Cumberland Sound (AV-17). As part of the seaplane tender’s crew, Lou Radil traveled to Bikini Atoll in the spring following the end of the war. There, he was witness to the nuclear tests for which the area became best known.
Although the Navy veteran was never very forthcoming with information about his wartime service to his family, he still embraced his status as a Pearl Harbor survivor. After the formation of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, he joined the Nebraska chapter. At the same time, he worked as a federal food inspector, married, and had two sons, including Larry Radil, who spoke on the occasion of his father’s passing.
“He enjoyed being in the Navy,” Larry Radil explained. The sailor’s son also spoke lovingly of his father’s personality, stating, “He was very friendly, enjoyed life. He’d make friends with anybody.”