Former USS Utah survivor interred during sunset ceremony

Family and friends lower the ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor Seaman 2nd Class Cecil Calavan to divers to be placed on the USS Utah (AG 16) Memorial on Ford Island during a sunset ceremony.

Family and friends lower the ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor Seaman 2nd Class Cecil Calavan to divers to be placed on the USS Utah (AG 16) Memorial on Ford Island during a sunset ceremony.

Story and photos by MC2 Brian Wilbur U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

Karen S. Spangler
Managing Editor, Ho`okele

More than 200 friends, family members and service members attended a sunset ceremony and interment on Dec. 6 at the USS Utah Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to remember those who served on the Florida-class battleship.

The interment also honored the life of Seaman 2nd Class Cecil Calavan, a crew member who served aboard the USS Utah during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I’m sure Cecil would not have wanted to be called a hero. He would say he was just doing his job, just doing what he was trained to do,” said James Taylor, Navy Region Hawaii Pearl Harbor survivor liaison. “Every man and woman who served during that terrible war were, and still are, heroes.”

Taylor explained that Calavan joined the Navy at the age of 17 and was a young seaman second class on the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Calavan and a friend were getting ready to leave the ship to go on liberty when he heard the scream of an airplane and an incredible explosion.

“He looked up and saw a plane go over the stern only about 20 feet above the ship. Then he saw the torpedo coming toward him, and an explosion knocked him off his feet. He saw another plane heading toward the ship and said nothing could be more terrifying than seeing a torpedo coming straight at you,” Taylor explained.

Another Sailor told Calavan that the ship was under attack and he should swim ashore to save himself. As the ship rolled over, Calavan and other shipmates slid down the bottom of the ship. They made it ashore, ending up in a ditch with other Sailors from the ship, Taylor said.

On that morning, two Japanese torpedoes slammed into the port side of the ship’s hull, causing massive flooding. The ship sank shortly after. Of the 519 Sailors aboard during the attack, 58 perished. An attempt to salvage the wreckage was unsuccessful and the battleship was abandoned.

Pamela Calavan Becerra, daughter of Pearl Harbor survivor Seaman 2nd Class Cecil Calavan speaks during the burial honors ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial.

Pamela Calavan Becerra, daughter of Pearl Harbor survivor Seaman 2nd Class Cecil Calavan speaks during the burial honors ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial.

After the attack, Calavan was assigned to the USS Detroit and then the USS San Francisco, where he was injured during a battle. He received a Purple Heart in 1944 and served the remainder of his enlistment stateside.

He married Beverle Lewis in 1944. After leaving the Navy, Calavan worked in various positions, including as a police officer in California and for the U.S. Ranger Service in Sierra National Forest. He also earned his pilot’s license.

Calavan retired from Ampex Corporation after 32 years. He is survived by seven children, 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

“Cecil continued to love his ship and, as years passed, saw the Utah become part of the National Valor of the Pacific Monument when President Bush signed a bill into law. He was the glue that held the USS Utah Survivors Association together during hard times and served as its president until he died Aug. 14 of this year,” Taylor said.

Among the guests attending last Saturday’s ceremony were Calavan’s daughter, Pamela Calavan Becerra, her niece Kelley, Calavan’s great-granddaughter Kristen, and long-time best friend, Wyoma Vale.

“Our family has been here several times and now when we come back, not only are we going to be here honoring the USS Utah and her crew, we’re going to be visiting my father,” said Becerra. “I am very proud of everything this memorial represents,” she said.

The ceremony included a rifle salute, playing of Taps, and a flag-folding and presentation to the family.

Taylor shared Calavan’s wish.

“I know Cecil would have wanted to return here and rejoin his fellow shipmates who were lost that fateful day when the Japanese Fleet attacked Pearl Harbor. In a few minutes, it will happen. Cecil will be with his shipmates who still remain inside the ship,” Taylor said.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • RSS

Category: News