Ho'okele Staff | Feb 03, 2017
Story and photos by MC2 Johans Chavarro
Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii
Buddy Scribner paid tribute to his cousin, Seaman Apprentice Leroy Dennis, during his visit to USS Utah Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Jan. 29.
At 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, one of the bombs from an enemy plane that flew over Ford Island found its way to USS Utah, striking the port side. USS Utah immediately began to list to port and at 8:12 a.m., her mooring lines snapped and Utah rolled over, her keel plainly showing above the water’s surface. Fifty-eight died aboard the ship that day.
Seventy-six years later, Buddy Scribner stands on the USS Utah Memorial overlooking the sunken hull of USS Utah. His fingers run over the “Honor Roll” plaque, over the names of those who lost their lives that day aboard the ship. Over names of men he never knew, including his cousin, Seaman Apprentice Leroy Dennis.
“He was killed before I was born,” Scribner said. “I hunt with his rifle. It’s a little Remington Model 6, and that was my rifle when I was a little boy. It’s one of my most prized possessions.”
Growing up, Scribner came to know his cousin solely by the possessions he left behind, the stories he’d heard and the telegrams sent by the U.S. Navy, notifying Dennis’ family of his passing at Pearl Harbor.
“My grandmother raised me from the time I was a child to when I was a teenager, and I had the original telegrams they sent her, ‘missing in action,’ ‘killed in action,’ ‘confirmed killed,'” Scribner said. “She was such a big part of my life, and it really hurt my grandmother. I had to come here.”
Growing up in a civilian conservation corps, a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, Dennis joined the Navy at 17 years old with the signature of his grandmother, according to Scribner. After attending bootcamp in San Diego, Dennis went on to report aboard USS Utah at Pearl Harbor.
“I have a couple letters that he sent,” Scribner said. “One he sent when he came out of bootcamp, and another when he got to Pearl Harbor. And that was the last we heard of him.”
Not knowing of the next time he will make the journey back to Pearl Harbor, Scribner commented on his motivation to not only honor his cousin during the visit, but also to offer one last gesture of appreciation to his grandmother, a woman he felt he owed so much to.
“I’m not here for me,” Scribner said. “I’m here for my grandmother. She saved my life.”
Sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten Ship,” the USS Utah Memorial serves as a key landmark in ensuring the events that transpired that day and those lost aboard USS Utah Dec. 7, 1941, do not go unnoticed. Lost, but not forgotten, by those like Buddy Scribner.