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Marysville veteran remembers Pearl Harbor

EVERETT — Marysville’s Walt Bailey is a member of a dwindling fraternity.

The 91-year-old was one of less than half a dozen survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor to attend Naval Station Everett’s remembrance ceremony on the anniversary of the bombing.

It was Bailey’s first time commemorating the event at Naval Station Everett, and when asked why, his answer was simple.

“They sent me an invitation,” said Bailey, drawing laughter from his two sons, Curt and Tim, who accompanied him to the tossing of a memorial wreath into the waters beside USS Rodney M. Davis.

Bailey’s sons can attest to his restraint in self-expression, since they can’t recall their father talking about the historic event that he lived through until the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, 19 years ago.

“I went through my four years in the Navy in Vietnam before he ever talked about what he went through,” Curt Bailey said. “It was different world.”

Walt Bailey joined the Army on April 9, 1941, and was stationed with the coastal artillery at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, only a few months out of basic training, when the bombs started dropping.

“People were firing live ammo, target ammo, whatever they could get ahold of,” Bailey said. “I got off seven rounds on a Japanese plane, but the biggest danger for us was friendly fire. They had to stop the Navy from shooting their shells because they were destroying every place they landed. One shell took out a barracks and blew the legs off a sergeant.”

Bailey laughed as he recalled having just enough time to eat breakfast that morning before the attack started.

“From then on, it was just confusion,” Bailey said. “I slept maybe three hours in the three days that followed.”

Birthdays hold a special wartime significance for Bailey, since he celebrates Sept. 2 both as his own birthday and as the date that the Japanese formally surrendered at the end of World War II. He likewise associates Aug. 6 with both his wife’s birthday and the date that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, although he laughed with his sons and admitted that he doesn’t tell his wife that.

Bailey’s memories of his years in the service remain as vivid as ever, and as a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association he’s quick to echo the group’s motto.

“Be alert,” Bailey said. “We should remember what happened, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It shouldn’t have happened the first time. These ceremonies are for the fallen and those who have given their lives for the rest of us. I’m sorry they can’t hear it, but by continuing it those who are still alive know that when they pass away others will do the same for them.”

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