Pearl Harbor survivor Lenoard Nielsen tells story

Pearl Harbor survivor Lenoard Nielsen watches as an aircraft passes by during the Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Nov. 12.

Pearl Harbor survivor Lenoard Nielsen watches as an aircraft passes by during the Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Nov. 12.

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“Most of us knew or felt something. It was in the winds, something was happening. I was transferred to the USS Solace. That’s where I became a survivor of Pearl Harbor,” Lenoard O. Nielsen said.

Nielsen joined the U.S. Navy at 18 years old. He was a Navy lieutenant junior grade ship vetter. He was a part of a group of people trained in firefighting, damage control to the ship and making all the repairs possible to keep the ship afloat if it was damaged.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. could no longer avoid an active fight.

On Dec. 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress for and received a declaration of war against Japan. On Dec. 11, Germany and Italy, allied with Japan, declared war on the U.S. The United States had entered World War II.

“During Pearl Harbor, I was aboard the Solace for an appendectomy,” Nielsen said. “I was recovering and out on deck when the attack started and I watched all of it.”

The Solace was a 409-foot hospital ship, which had a primary function as a floating medical treatment facility.

Nielsen spent his recovery time on the Solace rescuing men who had become badly burned from oil in the water.

“[We tried] to assist those from the ships that were so badly damaged and burning. People were in the oil-covered water and it was on fire. I must take my hat off to anyone else who was involved because two of us made many trips taking those who were badly injured and burned to the hospital ship Solace,” Nielsen said. “To see the unison of how people worked together; the nurses aboard that hospital ship are so often overlooked or forgotten how they work with all the men so badly damaged, hurt and burned, one must remember that it was the teamwork and training we had had that enabled us to do what we did. Team work.”

“Other than going through the horrors and turmoils of the attack [I can share this] to be a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor makes you appreciate what everyone else does, if they are sincere about it,” Nielsen said.

During a recent visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Nielsen left a few words of wisdom from his past experiences.

“To this day, I don’t worry about problems. Maybe I can do something about them. Maybe I can’t. But I can do my best. That’s what we’re trained to do, Nielsen said.

“We need to look very deep at past history and occurrences to apply many of the principles to our future. Perhaps it will heal part of the country’s failings.”

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Category: News