Ceremony honors Pearl Harbor survivor Chief Click

Story and photos by Brandon Bosworth | Assistant Editor, Ho’okele

The ashes of Chief Radioman John Kelley Click, 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 Sept. 11.

Among those in attendance were Click’s daughter, Peggy, her family, and Cmdr. Timothy Wilkie, commanding officer, Afloat Training Group (ATG) Middle Pacific (MIDPAC). Chaplain Lt. Daniel Clark, Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, presided over the services. Also in attendance were more than 30 Navy chiefs and chief selectees.

“Today would have been John’s birthday,” said Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison, who spoke at the event. “He was born Sept. 11, 1921 in Farlee, Texas. After his schooling, he joined the Navy June 11 of 1940 and became a member of the West Virginia’s crew in December of that year. One year later, his life would change forever.”

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Click was serving as a radio operator aboard the West Virginia. The radio room was below the third deck, on the left side of the ship. During the attack, torpedoes struck the West Virginia both in front of him and behind him. Soon water was flooding the ship from all angles. Click made for the main deck.

“He managed to walk to the back of the ship by holding on to railings,” said Taylor. “He was a very scared young man! Amongst other things, he was worried about the magazine where all the ammunition was stored possibly blowing up. To make matters worse, he had to dodge bullets from the incoming planes strafing them with their machine guns.”

Eventually the order was given to abandon ship, and Click dived into the harbor, swimming away from the burning oil. A motorboat rescued him.

Throughout the rest of World War II, Click served on destroyers. He was honorably discharged in 1946, leaving the Navy as a chief petty officer.

Upon re-entering civilian life, Click worked for the U.S. Postal Service before transferring to the Federal Aviation Administration. He got married, and he and his wife Viola were together for more than 60 years. Click retired in 1976 and moved to Arizona in 1996, where he and Viola lived for the rest of his life.

He passed away in May of this year.

“John Click was an American hero,” said Taylor. “He never wavered in faith or spirit, not on the morning of Dec. 7, nor in the remaining years to come. It is this type of bravery and selflessness all our Pearl Harbor survivors share. His story describes very humbly the dedication of his generation.”

Peggy Termer described her father as a gentle man and a caring father. She was very pleased by the ceremony held in his honor.

“I can’t even think of the words,” she said. “My dad deserved this.”

Peggy Termer said the ceremony honoring her father was “excellent.”

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Category: Life & Leisure