Pearl Harbor Memories from a Jewish-American Soldier

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Today, the United States observes the 79th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that plunged America into World War II. And as we remember, we also recall this 2016 piece by The Times of Israel’s Ben Sales about Aaron Chabin, a then-94-year-old (we believe Mr. Chabin is still alive) veteran who lived through Pearl Harbor:

With Japanese planes buzzing overhead, Pvt. Aaron Chabin ran to his post at Pearl Harbor where his commander handed him a loaded gun — and told him to save the last bullet.

“He handed me my weapon, and said ‘Don’t be taken prisoner,’” Chabin, now 94, recalled in a phone interview on Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of the attack that killed 2,400 people and plunged the United States into World War II…

Chabin spent the rest of the day relaying phone messages between officers, watching Pearl Harbor go up in smoke and flames. At night, he went to the base to stand guard — something that he hadn’t always had to do. Before that day, no one had expected the base to be attacked. “It was chaos,” he said.

Born to a Jewish family in Detroit that soon moved to New York, Chabin enlisted in the army at 18. It was peacetime and he was hoping for some adventure and maybe a career. Given the choice of being stationed in the continental United States, the Philippines, Panama or Hawaii, he chose Hawaii. One of the soldiers in his barracks was James Jones, who wrote the World War II novel “From Here to Eternity,” set at Schofield Barracks.

Chabin had just completed basic training when the attack happened.

“It was very confusing at the beginning,” he said. “Later on, we calmed down when we realized the Japanese weren’t going to invade the island. If they had invaded, it would have kept the war going for a couple more years, because from the Hawaiian Islands they could have attacked the West Coast…”

Tags: Aaron Chabin Ben Sales History Jewish Americans Pearl Harbor Times of Israel WWII

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