'I want to go out of respect to the good guys who didn't make it'

12/07/2011 12:00 AM

12/07/2011 2:16 PM

Bob Addobati spent his early career in the Navy before working for the post office for 25 years. He was a signalman on the USS Solace, a hospital ship docked at Pearl Harbor.

A longtime member of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association chapter, he didn't speak to his family about the attacks or his other wartime experiences, including the loss of his left leg after his ship was torpedoed late in the war, until the 1990s.

Now he tells his story as often as he can. With his children and grandchildren, he visited Pearl Harbor last Dec. 7 and has returned again with a niece this year.

"I feel I want to go there and see where I myself could have gotten killed," said Addobati, 89. "I want to go out of respect to the good guys who didn't make it."

At 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, he stood watch on the Solace while the sky filled with Japanese planes.

"I always thought I saw the first plane," he said, "but a lot of sailors said that. It came down over the USS California, the last battleship on battleship row, and dropped something. A second later, I saw this huge explosion."

The attacks lasted two hours.

"During the attack, I got into a 40-foot motor launch," he said.

"For two days and nights, we went back and forth from the Solace to the fleet landing, where the dead were stacked up like cordwood. I recovered many wounded, and I recovered the dead and put them on the boat.

"I remember reaching out and pulling them up. You'd grab a sailor's arm, and the skin would pull off from being burned. The water was covered with oil from the ships, and it was burning. I did that for hours."

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