More than 76 years ago, the nation was stunned when a fleet of Japanese bombers and fighters launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Oahu, HI. The assault killed more than 2,400 and left others, like Ray Emory, with terrible memories of the tragic attack. Emory was among the thousands who survived and went on to fight in the War in the Pacific, and no matter how much time has passed since his military service ended, he still vividly recalls the events of the “date which will live in infamy.”
In June of 2018, the 97-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor made what he says will be his final trip back to the site of the devastating events of December 7, 1941. Emory, who was serving aboard the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL-48) when the attack unfolded, returned to the naval base with the intention of briefly paying his respects for the lives lost that day and to revisit the pier where Honolulu was moored. Instead, as he pulled up to the pier in a golf cart, he became the center of attention when more than 500 sailors lined up, manning the rails to greet him on what may have been his last visit.
Emory’s return to Pearl Harbor was met with a ceremony in his honor. The longtime Hawaii resident told reporters at the event that he was glad to have visited one last time and knows that he’ll “never forget it.”
When celebrating Ray Emory, it’s impossible not to also recognize his efforts over the years on behalf of the men who perished in the attack whose remains were never identified. In 2012, he was recognized by the US Navy and the National Park Service for his work with the Department of Veterans Affairs for his work that would eventually lead to the creation of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, dedicated to identifying the remains of hundreds of unknown sailors and Marines from USS Oklahoma (BB-37) and others.
Among his many efforts, Ray Emory helped get gravestones for unknown remains from USS Arizona (BB-39) engraved with the name of the battleship. He was also responsible for the identification of five sailors from USS Oklahoma.
Ray Emory has spent much of his life researching the history of Pearl Harbor, working to uncover the identities of the unknown remains. Though he plans on leaving Hawaii for Idaho to be closer to his family, the Naval Liaison to Pearl Harbor Survivors, Jim Taylor, says that he believes Emory will continue to research the unknown remains “until the day he joins his wife in heaven.”
The Pearl Harbor survivor may not intend to return to the site of the 1941 attack, but memories of the attack will always be with him, regardless of whether he’s able to continue his research into the unidentified and missing sailors and Marines once he moves to Idaho.