Kauai native Alfred B. Rodrigues, Sr., known to everyone he met as “Uncle Al,” passed away on February 24, 2019. The 99-year-old World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor was a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather who was always eager to share his story, ensuring it would continue to be passed down even after his passing.
Al Rodrigues at Pearl Harbor
Al Rodrigues enlisted in the Naval Reserves when he was just 17 years old. It took three years before he was called to active duty in 1940, the year before the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. He was stationed at the Station Base Bishop Point as a Chief Storekeeper for much of that time. On the morning of the attack, while he was on watch duty, he witnessed USS Ward (DD-139) dropping depth charges to attack a Japanese mini-submarine that threatened to enter Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, he came off duty and went to have his breakfast.
It was in the middle of breakfast that the first explosions rocked the harbor. When the general alarm sounded, he rushed to the armory, where he was equipped with a .30 caliber rifle and told to shoot at the attacking planes. With no advance warning that would have allowed for better defensive preparations, this was the only means of repelling the Japanese attack for many stationed in and around Pearl Harbor. For the next two hours, Rodrigues and his fellow sailors fired on Japanese pilots.
Service in World War II
Al Rodrigues survived the attack on Pearl Harbor unharmed and remained on active duty for the rest of the war that followed. During the war, he served in multiple locations, transferring to the battleship USS Washington (BB-56). In 1945, he was transferred to the District Material Redistribution Office in New York City, leaving combat behind for the rest of the war.
After the War
When the fighting in the Pacific finally ended, Al Rodrigues decided to return home to the Hawaiian Islands, so he applied to join the Honolulu police force. Though he was eventually accepted, he decided instead to return to the Navy, where he served as a Navy Chief in the Yards and Docks Supply Depot. After 24 years of service to his country, Al Rodrigues retired.
In his later years, Uncle Al Rodrigues spent a portion of his time helping preserve the history and memories of Pearl Harbor. He regularly volunteered his time at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to speak of his experiences and the men and women he fought alongside during World War II. Even at 98 years old, Uncle Al Rodrigues continued to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument to share his experiences with tourists and locals coming to pay their respects.
In 2011, Rodrigues published a memoir, Diary of a Pearl Harbor Survivor. The book covers his time at Pearl Harbor and aboard USS Washington, detailing the grim realities of war. On December 7, 2018, the US Department of Veterans Affairs honored him as their Veteran of the Day.
Uncle Al Rodrigues leaves behind a large family including nine children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Fair winds and following seas.