You could call 95-year-old John Chapman a real life super hero on this day 76 years ago.
"We had water up to our necks hanging onto our beams," said Chapman, one of the few remaining Pearl Harbor survivors.
Chapman was just 19, a ship fitter 3rd Class aboard the USS West Virginia battleship when suddenly Japanese planes attacked overhead just before 8 am.
"There were 375 planes. They were like bumble bees. You couldn't count them, but they were just like bumble bees, crossing."
John was supposed to be on liberty or on an authorized absence as a life guard at a hotel on shore that day, but instead his ship was torpedoed and he found himself in the water with other sailors fighting for their lives.
"We got six bombs total. You could feel them every time they came down in the port side there was nothing left to it,"
That's when John went into action.
As a young, buff sailor, he used his strength, diving and swimming skills to survive in the ocean 30 minutes, rescuing an incredible 32 men by climbing 30 feet up a rope, then through a hatch above.
“I got a cargo net and I cut it off. It’s the one’s they used for picking the planes up. And dropped it down the hatch and got the men out that way.”
Son Erick says as his dad tried to stay alive in the water, he remembered a Bible verse said to him by his mother that gave him the strength to not give up.
“Yeah as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death I will fear no evil. And he had a little guardian angel on his shoulder who said at that point in an audible voice he said you’re in charge," said Erick.
John served 24 years, including time in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
He received a Purple Heart for taking shrapnel to his neck at Pearl Harbor.
He became a model, body builder, father and husband and enjoyed a long career as a civil engineer.
Now in hospice care in Concord, he shared his story today at The Commons on Thornton Retirement Community in Stockton.
His reason for sharing on this date that lives in infamy is a simple one.
“Memories of this never happens again.”
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