A Pearl Harbor survivor who went on to become a decorated World War II flyer, passed away this weekend at 101. Jack Holder, a Pearl Harbor survivor and World War II flyer, who had flown over 100 missions in the Pacific and European theaters passed away in Arizona Friday. A close friend and executor of Holder’s estate said he passed away at a hospital in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. Pearl Harbor National Memorial site also announced his death Friday.
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Holder was the son of Texas family farmers in Gunter, Texas. He joined the Navy in 1940 when he was 18 years old.
He was on duty at Ford Island within Oahu’s Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 when Japanese aircraft bombed the U.S. naval base. He had recalled the day saying he dived into a ditch to avoid gunfire.
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According to Military Times Holder had said the following on December 7th in the past,
“The first bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor was about 100 yards from me,” Holder said, adding that he “saw guys swimming through burning oil in the water.”
Hunkered down behind a fortress of sandbags, “I wondered if this was the day I would die,” Holder told the Arizona Republic in a 2016 interview. “That morning I watched as Japanese dive bombers devastated Pearl Harbor. I knew that we would no longer sit on the sidelines of the war ravaging Europe.”
Holder said he spent three harrowing days manning a makeshift machine gun pit, a ditch lined with sandbags, in the aftermath of the attack.
On that day, about 2,400 servicemen were killed in the attack, which launched the United States into World War II. the USS Arizona had lost 1,177 sailors and Marines – which was nearly half the death toll alone.
Holder was awarded two distinguished flying cross medals, six air medals, a presidential citation, and six commendation medals throughout his Naval career before he was honorably discharged in 1948. He flew for 25 years as a corporate and commercial pilot, before taking up golfing and moving to Arizona to live in a retirement community. Where he continued to be a WWII educator and regular Pearl Harbor commemorator.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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