SHREWSBURY, Mo. (KMOX) – Sitting in his favorite chair in a well-heated living room, Elmer Luckett got a phone call from his 70-year-old son in California.
“Hello? Oh hi, son, can you call back later?” asked the 97-year-old Luckett. “I’m talking to this reporter about Pearl Harbor.”
As he hung up, Luckett plunged into the moment the attack struck.
“I was topside of this destroyer, and I was talking with a shipmate of mine. We noticed a lot of black smoke coming off of Ford Island, and just about that time, the Japanese started attacking battleship row.”
Waves of Japanese torpedo planes swept over the harbor. Luckett heard machine gun fire, explosions, and he saw the Arizona heave with a blast just before he ran down below to his battle station.
Manning his post in the forward engine room, Luckett didn’t know if his own ship, the U.S.S. Chew, would be torpedoed.
“I’ll tell you this, I’m not too much of a religious man, but I do remember saying, ‘Dear Lord, it’s out of my hands.'”
Luckett survived to see more battles in the Pacific, and after the war, and raised a family in Shrewsbury.
In the decades since, Luckett says he has not suffered any Pearl Harbor nightmares, and he has not lived in dread of life hurling some other vague surprise attack at him. But he says he does see the world through what happened at Pearl Harbor. He believes the U.S. can’t be “isolationist” or unprepared, again.
Asked about North Korea, Luckett says he gets the newspaper delivered every day and keeps up on news of North Korea’s missile program.
“I’m very apprehensive about that, because I sure hope nothing happens there, but they got this crazy young kid running their government over there, and it seems like you don’t know what he’s going to pull next.”
On past Pearl Harbor Days, Luckett has ventured out in the cold to attend memorial ceremonies at a nearby VFW post. But this year, he said he wanted to stay home and take it easy.
Of the some 60,000 original Pearl Harbor survivors, only about 2,000 remained a year ago. This year’s count is certainly lower. Luckett was asked if he might live to be the last one.
“There’s always a possibility. I can’t predict that, but I’m sure hanging around a long time.”