Stories From Main Street: Union’s Tom Mahoney Among NJ’s Last Pearl Harbor Survivors
UNION, NJ (WCBS 880) - Seventy years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tom Mahoney’s memory is keen of the day that “changed the world.”
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“Looked out this porthole, put my head out about fifteen feet from the ship, [there] was this plane coming around on the turn and he had a huge torpedo underneath him, and he dropped that torpedo into the old Utah,” he said. “I turned around in the mess hall and I yelled loud and clear ‘Go to your battle stations!'”
Mahoney, who is from Union, New Jersey, was just 19 years old and serving as an electrician aboard the U.S.S. Curtis, which took a direct hit.
“Four decks were on fire. The ship was a hell of a mess. We’re fighting the fires, being strafed by planes constantly,” Mahoney told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.
Mahoney manned a fire hose for eight and a half hours.
“We had to walk almost into the fires, and we’re slipping and sliding on the deck with a thirty degree list with blood, oil, water,” said Mahoney.
He discovered the bodies of five friends he ate breakfast with that morning.
“They were incinerated. The bomb had exploded underneath them. This is why I never could go back to Pearl Harbor. Memories are on my mind all the time,” said Mahoney.
Mahoney’s brother was also aboard ship. The two of them were covered in soot and blood, unable to even recognize each other when they first reunited.
“We just stood there and hugged and cried, like really the kids we were,” he said.
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As time marches by, there are fewer and fewer Pearl Harbors survivors with us.
“Locally, New Jersey had over 700 people. We’re down to four, or five,” he said.
Mahoney has a piece of scorched steel from the U.S.S. Arizona, which he keeps in his dining room.
“When you touch the steel, it feels like my body is vibrating,” he said.
Sometimes, he brings it to speaking engagements. He continues to share his story with schoolchildren.
“We never gave our lives a thought. We gave the country. We fought for that flag, which is beautiful. Now it’s up to the younger generation,” said Mahoney. “I will continue until I die. I may die in a school.”
The anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is Wednesday. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.