Pearl harbor survivor forgives, but doesn’t forget

Chuck Canaday, 91, native of Chadron, speaks to an interviewer from The Eagle while recollecting the 70-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor- Photo by T.J. Thomson.

Chuck Canaday, 91, native of Chadron, speaks to an interviewer from The Eagle while recollecting the 70-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor- Photo by T.J. Thomson.

“I’ve been hailed as a hero, but I’m not a hero; I survived. The heroes are the ones who went down with their ships in Pearl Harbor.”

That’s what 91-year-old Chadron native Chuck Canaday said while recollecting the Pearl Harbor attack 70 years later.

As a U.S. Navy Regular, enlisted for a six-year term, Canaday served on the submarine base at Pearl Harbor. In September of 1941, he joined the Navy and was enrolled in boot camp. While in boot camp, he met an admiral’s son who became his yeoman. A yeoman is a secretary or clerk that takes care of paperwork, does book work, and spends a majority of time in the office. His yeoman told him about Pearl Harbor, as he had never heard of it before, and when boot camp was over, he and several other sailors headed for Pearl Harbor.

Canaday left his home in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 11, 1941 aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans and dropped anchor in Pearl Harbor on Nov. 17. While on the way to the Navy’s Hawaii base, he celebrated his twenty-first birthday on Nov. 14. After arriving, he and several other sailors gathered on the drill field where they were given a speech about sub-duty on Pearl Harbor.

Anybody who wanted to volunteer could step forward. There would be more pay, good food, which was what I liked, Canaday said.

“I was the first one chosen along with six others. There was seven altogether, myself included.”

Eventually, Canaday got tired of sweeping and picking up garbage, so he went to the administration to request that he work sea duty on a submarine. His request was granted, and he began to work on a submarine relief crew.

The morning of the infamous attack–Dec. 7, 1941–found Canaday working in the mess hall. He had just finished eating when the fire alarms sounded, he recalls, then everyone ran to the fire station.  Canaday and some other sailors traveled to the mountain armory to get ammunition, something the base was lacking.

By the time he and his colleagues returned to the base two hours later, the Japanese had made two runs. First were bombers, and then came torpedoes, he said. The Japanese destroyed almost all of the military assets housed at the base: aircraft warships, and battlewagons.

Canaday, along with many others, were given the job of cleaning up the aftermath. He cleaned up ships, including the Arizona, a battlewagon, and the Ogallala, a minelayer.

After travelling internationally, he returned to Pearl Harbor two years later and then was transferred to Guam where he spent the next 18 months.

“The war ended at Guam.” He said. “I sure wanted to leave when the war ended.”

“I don’t hold any animosity toward the Japanese people,” Canaday said. “It was their government [that was responsible].”

“The Japanese treated American prisoners, beyond words. Hell, they shot, tormented, and starved them.” When Japanese POWs were taken by Americans, they were given three meals a day, had a warm place to sleep, and they were not tormented.

“I served my country and I served it faithfully,” he said. “I’m proud to say I served my country for the freedom others have and I do have.”

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1 Response

  1. Jeff says:

    We love you Chuck!

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