November 6, 2012 |

Pearl Harbor survivor Fred Westford dies a hero

On December 7, 1941 Fred Westford was a young 21-year-old sailor stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Contributed Photo

There were 33 PBYs on the ground or floating just offshore when the Japanese arrived. Of those planes, all but six were destroyed, and the survivors were damaged.

Only the three Kaneohe Bay PBYs, then out on patrol, were fit for service at the end of the raid.

At the time of the attack Westford was working in the mess hall. He began to hear low flying planes outside the building he was in.

Curious to see why the planes were flying so low, Westford and a few other fellow sailors stepped outside and looked up to see the telltale "Zero" insignias on the underside of the wings on the planes flying so close overhead.

The Japanese Zero planes flew forward and began strafing the PBY Navy planes on the ground and also bombing the hangars.

Realizing they were under attack, Westford's commanding officer ordered the men who were working in the mess hall to take cover in the large walk-in freezer.

He and a fellow sailor looked at each other, Westford said, "I don't know about you but I'm from North Dakota and I didn't come all the way to Hawaii to freeze to death in a freezer. I know what cold is."

With that, both men decided to take their chances under a steel table nearby.

In the late 1970's Westford and several other Kaneohe survivors formed a group called the Kaneohe Klippers.

The members raised funds for a memorial to the Americans who lost their lives at Kaneohe that day.

The stone memorial was placed and dedicated by the Kaneohe Klippers Association on December 2, 1981, five days before the 40th anniversary of the Japanese attacks on NAS, Kaneohe Bay.

There were a total of 20 Americans killed in the attack, 18 servicemen and two civilians.

Westford was a recent resident at Ashley Pointe in Lake Stevens where he was loved by all.

He had a keen sense of humor and was a quiet and gentle spirit, and a true gentleman.

Westford passed away peacefully at the age of 92 at the home of his daughter, Conni Riley, of Lake Stevens.

He was laid to rest with full military honors at Tahoma National Cemetery on October 15th, 2012 next to his wife, Lt. Commander Berniece Westford.

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