Ceremony at USS Utah Memorial honors Pearl Harbor survivor

Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

The ashes of Fred Leighton, 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 Nov. 28.

“It was Fred’s wish to return to Pearl Harbor after his death and have his ashes scattered here so he could be with his shipmates lost here in these hallowed waters,” said Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison.

“He has made his final voyage and, thanks to his loving family, his wish will come true this morning.”

Fred H. Leighton was born June 12, 1921 in Healdsburg, Calif. Leighton joined the Navy in July 1939.

After completing boot camp, he was assigned to an old World War I-era destroyer, the USS Ramsay (DM 16). Ramsay was moored to Pearl Harbor the morning of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. However, unlike so many other ships, Ramsay suffered little damage and was able to exit the harbor.

“The Ramsay was one of the few ships to get underway,” said Capt. Larry Scruggs, deputy commander, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, who spoke at the ceremony. “Fighting its way out of the harbor, Ramsay took the fight to the Japanese, hunting for submarines threatening U.S. ships.”

Leighton later served aboard Ramsay and other ships throughout the war in the Pacific. He took part in the invasion of Okinawa and was part of the armada that sailed into Yokohama Harbor for Japan’s signing of surrender.

Leighton was discharged from the Navy in November 1945 after earning the position of boatswain’s mate first class petty officer. He died March 7, 2008 in Sebastopol, Calif.

Chaplain Lt. James Ragain, assigned to Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, presided over the services and described Leighton as “a hero, like all those who serve our nation.”

The word “hero” also came up when Leighton’s son, Mark, sang an original song he wrote about his father. Many of the lyrics were from Fred Leighton’s perspective, including the repeated line, “Son, don’t call me a hero.”

But the song also included lines from Mark’s point of view, such as “My dad is a hero, at least in my eyes.”

Leighton’s widow, Vanya, was also in attendance. She talked about how much he seriously took being a Pearl Harbor survivor.

“He attended every survivor’s event and meeting he could,” she said. “We even attended two Dec. 7 events here in Hawaii.”

Vanya was very happy with the ceremony.

“It was beautiful and very moving,” she said. “I’m very thankful to the Navy for doing this and offering this wonderful service.”

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Category: News