NORTH STRABANE (KDKA) — Seventy years ago on Dec. 7, 1941, 2,400 people lost their lives in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
One who survived to tell the story was 17-year-old Seaman First Class Alan Sanford. At a ceremony in his honor in the Meadowlands, the Washington County man remembers.
“Horrible.” His eyes well up with tears. “That’s all I can say is absolutely horrible.”
It is a little known fact that the young seaman fired the very first shot of all.
“I fired the shots an hour and twenty minutes earlier than the Japanese first line came,” he said. “Two-man submarine armed with torpedoes.”
He was serving on destroyer U.S.S. Ward when a pair of enemy midget subs entered the harbor to supplement the fighter planes to follow.
“We had orders to shoot anything that was trying to get into Pearl Harbor,” he recalls.
He fired the shots and the midget sub went down. Now family, friends and brothers in arms gather to recognize to one of the few who was able to fight back.
Even on a Day of Infamy, America had that single triumph.
“We sank them,” he says.
The proof is underwater: a two-man sub resting on the sands of Pearl Harbor for 70 years.