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Dick Higgins, Pearl Harbor Attack Survivor, Dies at 102

Richard C. “Dick” Higgins, a 102-year-old survivor of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, died Tuesday at his home in Bend, Oregon.

“My grandfather was a very kind and humble man,” Angela Norton said. His granddaughter said he was always telling jokes or making funny comments around the house to make his family smile.

“What made him so unique and so lovable was that he just wanted to share his story with anyone who would listen,” Norton said.

Whether it was a visit to local high schools or a grocery run to Trader Joe’s, Higgins never missed an opportunity to share his story of survival, Norton said.

“He would love to just sit and chat with random people just to tell them his story,” Norton told CNN. Higgins often called his memories “living history.”

Higgins joined the Navy in 1939 and served as a radioman at Pearl Harbor, a Hawaiian naval base on the island of Oahu, assigned to a seaplane patrol squadron.

It was 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese began dropping several bombs and torpedoes on the base.

That morning, Higgins remembers lying on his bunk in a screened-in veranda, similar to an enclosed porch – which he said would help protect the military from the incessant mosquitoes on the island.

And suddenly, sounds of explosions rang out throughout the base, Higgins said in a 2008 interview with the National Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

“They were very close, so I jumped out of my bunk and ran to the edge of the veranda,” he said in his oral report. “And just as I was arriving, a plane flew over the barracks.”

Higgins estimated the plane was flying about 100 feet above. The Japanese plane had red circle emblems painted on the wings, which Higgins described as looking like “big red meatballs”.

“There was no doubt what was going on in my mind,” he said.

The attack lasted an hour and 15 minutes, killing nearly 2,500 U.S. service members and citizens and injuring more than 1,000 people, according to a national World War II museum. report of facts.

“And so, once that was all over, of course, we started cleaning and belting the munitions, so that we would be ready for anything else,” Higgins said in the report.

During World War II, Higgins continued as a radioman and served in the Dutch East Indies and the Aleutian Islands.

Despite his major role in the aftermath of the attack, Higgins did not seek recognition for his services. Instead, his main goal in sharing his testimony was to make sure the world saw the bigger picture.

“My grandfather always said, ‘I’m not the hero,'” Norton told CNN. “The heroes were the ones who didn’t come back.”

There are 22 known survivors still alive today, according to Sons and daughters of Pearl Harbor survivorsan organization dedicated to family members and citizens of service members affected by the attack.

There may be more survivors alive who have not joined the association, according to Kathleen Farley, the organization’s director.

Higgins was born July 24, 1921 on a farm near Mangum, Okla.

After serving 20 years in the Navy, he retired and worked as an aeronautical engineer for Northrop Corporation.

He earned his pilot’s license and spent his free time in the clouds or traveling the country with his wife, Winnie Ruth. The two were married for 60 years before he died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2004 at the age of 82.

“As he got older and his body declined, he kept saying, ‘I’m ready to come home to be with Jesus and Winnie Ruth,'” Norton said.

Higgins died at home of natural causes, according to his family. His granddaughter said he lived a full life and was proud of all he had overcome in his century of life.

Growing up, Norton remembers her grandfather cheering her on at sports games and having sleepovers at his house. Higgins not only shared his account of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also other major historical events like the Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl – which he attributed to his exceptionally long life.

“He always said, ‘That good old Oklahoma dust kept me fertile,'” Norton said.

Higgins’ legacy is carried on by his two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“My goal is to tell his story to my children and anyone else,” Norton told CNN. “So that he is always there and we don’t forget him.”

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