Ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor scattered at USS Utah Memorial

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Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

The ashes of Watertender 1st Class Louis “Lou” Zwillich, a survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, were scattered in the waters near the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island during a ceremony held Dec. 3.

Among those in attendance were Zwillich’s son, Robert, and his family; Capt. Larry Scruggs, deputy commander, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard; and Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison.

Also present was Navy 2nd Class Signalman Delton Walling, another survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack. Chaplain Lt. James Ragain, Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, presided over the services.

Zwillich was born on Jan. 10, 1922 in New York City. He joined the Navy in his teens and was serving as a seaman first class on the USS Phoenix, a light cruiser, during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

“The Phoenix was just around the corner, all alone,” said Taylor, gesturing to a spot in the harbor.

“She was a perfect target for incoming aircraft and was very fortunate because she suffered no damage during the entire attack, truly a miracle. The first sighting of the Japanese by the ship was on the signal bridge – the planes were attacking from north of Ford Island. The crew of Phoenix could see the bombs dropping on Battleship Row and the huge battleships being hit by torpedoes.”

Undamaged, Phoenix’s machine gun battery opened fire, targeting incoming planes and firing more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition during the attack. The ship got underway but had to turn around after being instructed to return to its original location. Before the day was over, Phoenix was allowed to get underway and left Pearl Harbor to join Commander Task Force One.

“That afternoon, they set sail, not knowing if they would come as they prepared to take on the Japanese juggernaut,” said Capt. Scruggs. “This type of bravery and selflessness is something all our Pearl Harbor survivors share.”

After leaving the service, Louis Zwillich eventually moved to Scarsdale, N.Y., where he passed away Aug. 18, 2012 at the age of 90. He never forgot what happened on Dec. 7, but was disappointed that many Americans had little or no knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Lou recalled a time when he and a friend left a restaurant wearing their Pearl Harbor survivor hats,” said Taylor.

“Someone approached them as if they were imposters, saying there were no survivors of Pearl Harbor.”

Zwillich’s son, Robert, was very pleased with the ceremony honoring his father.

“I had no idea it would be this detailed,” he said. “The dedication of those involved to a past brother was phenomenal. I couldn’t have scripted anything this beautiful.”

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Category: News