Seventy-six years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, there are few witnesses to that defining event in U.S. history. The national Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded in 2011, as its membership dwindled to 2,700.
Ira “Ike” Schab, 97, is among the last of the survivors. In a recent interview with the Oregonian, the Portland resident recalled the events of Dec. 7, 1941, when he served aboard the USS Dobbin, about 500 yards from Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor. Schab was a member of the Dobbin's Navy Band Unit 13, which was preparing for a church service when alarms sounded just before 8 a.m.
“I wanted to see what was going on, so I went up topside,” Schab told the newspaper. “They were definitely coming in strafing and starting to torpedo the battleships. ... I saw the Utah going over and I saw the Raleigh start to go.”
Schab said he spent the duration of the attack passing ammunition boxes through a manhole for the Dobbin's two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns.
“I only weighed 145 pounds and I was pushing 255 pounds with one hand,” he said. “That's adrenaline.”
On Dec. 6, the USS Arizona's Band Unit 22 had gathered with other Navy musicians for a battle of the bands – winning the first round, according to Schab. All of its members died the next morning, among the 1,177 Arizona sailors killed in the fiery attack.
“I knew every one of them,” Schab said. “And they're still there.”