Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's on Pearl Harbor Survivor's Kindle

by Bill Doughty
Then-Lt. Edward Vezey Jr.
Former Lt.Cmdr. Ed Vezey, a Pearl Harbor survivor who was aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37) during the attack of December 7, 1941, told me recently his favorite author is James D. Hornfischer. Among the books on Vezey's Kindle are "Neptune's Inferno," "Last of the Tin Can Sailors" and his top pick, "Ship of Ghosts."

"That book had the most impact on me," Vezey said. "The thing I like about it is how it goes from civilian life to what they did despite the inhumanity they witnessed. Hornfischer really knows how to show the brutality of naval combat. [USS] Houston ran right into the buzzsaw."

For Vezey, who is reportedly the last USS Oklahoma Pearl Harbor survivor living in the State of Oklahoma, "The Guadalcanal Campaign was worse than Pearl Harbor. During the war, instead of hour after hour, it was weeks and months, every day and every night."

Vezey recalls "no good torpedoes" against the enemy, waters "teeming with submarines," and the effects of a battleship's ferocious guns targeting smaller ships. "Sixteen-inch guns would go right through a destroyer, and they would try to hit below the water line."

Vezey is expected to speak at the USS Oklahoma Memorial Ceremony on Ford Island next weekend during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The memorial is located adjacent to Battleship Row, where USS Oklahoma was berthed in 1941 and where Battleship Missouri Memorial sits today.

Vezey helped make the USS Oklahoma Memorial a reality. The memorial, dedicated Dec. 7, 2007, is in tribute to 429 Marines and Sailors who lost their lives aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack.

In an interview with Brandice J. Armstrong at Tinker Air Force Base in 2010, Vezey, who had reported to USS Oklahoma in April 1941 as an ensign, said, "It's hard to convey to non-Sailors how important this ship is when you're a Sailor. It's your mother, your home and if you spend a lot of time at sea like we did, it's the fundamental island [of] security."

Today, Vezey exercises daily and lives a healthy lifestyle. He has two 'themes' in life.
A USS Oklahoma Sailor uses nap time to read. Courtesy
"The first is that life is one whale of an adventure, but don't let go when it tries to throw you off," Vezey said. "The second is to keep pedaling, or else the bike will fall over. This is fundamentally true in your health, your job skills, your marriage. If you stop pedaling, all of a sudden you discover life is passing you by."

"Life can be great if you don't quit."

That attitude is reflected in Hornfischer's "Ship of Ghosts" (see the next blog post) and, a generation later, in Craig Venter's autobiography, "A Life Decoded."

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