Each passing year brings the loss of more and more survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, so when one of these heroes celebrates a birthday, it’s cause for celebration. One of these survivors is Colorado resident Bernie Weber, who celebrated his 101st birthday on March 21, 2019.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Weber’s place in his nation’s history. On December 7, 1941, he was a first-hand witness to the event that marked the start of World War II for the United States. When the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, it forced the Americans out of their long-held isolationism.
Bernie Weber and the Sinking of USS Oklahoma
Bernie Weber was there when the bombs started falling on Pearl Harbor, serving aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37). When the battleship was hit by multiple torpedoes, causing her to capsize and sink, she took with her the second greatest number of losses that day, with 429 of her crew killed. Only USS Arizona (BB-39) lost more men: a staggering 1,177. That Weber survived the sinking of Oklahoma was in itself what some might consider a miracle, but she was only the first of two sinking ships he would be forced to abandon before the war was over.
After living through the attack on Pearl Harbor—after which he was listed as MIA for ten days—Bernie Weber continued his service in the US Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After the loss of Oklahoma, he served aboard USS Northampton (CA-26), a heavy cruiser that happened to be at sea the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Northampton served in the Pacific until November 30, 1942, during the Battle of Tassafaronga.
Another Ship Goes Down
While taking part in the Allied operation to prevent Japan from sending reinforcements to Guadalcanal, Northampton was struck by two enemy torpedoes. She survived most of the engagement, but the impact of the torpedoes blew a hole in her port side. Decks and bulkheads were torn away and she began taking on water. Weber escaped the flaming vessel before she sank completely, surviving his second sinking ship of the war.
For his 101st birthday, Bernie Weber was joined by friends and family, who shared stories from his long life. Weber took time to reminisce about events from throughout his 101 years, including seven years as a sailor of the United States Navy and the tragic events he lived through on December 7, 1941 and just under a year later, on November 30, 1942.