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World War II veteran, 103, returns to Pearl Harbor 82 years after Japan’s attack to honor fallen comrades


A World War II veteran who survived Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor has returned to Hawaii to honor those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Traveling to Honolulu to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the attack, Ira “Ike” Schab, 103, was only 21 when Japanese pilots bombed the naval base on Dec. 7, 1941.

Upon his annual arrival in Hawaii earlier this week, Schab was met with applause from those who welcomed him to the island following his flight from Portland.

More than eight decades after the attack, Schab still recalls the memories, some of which he said aren’t the best to maintain.

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Ira "Ike" Schab, Pearl Harbor

Traveling to Honolulu to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the attack, Ira “Ike” Schab, 103, was only 21 when Japanese pilots bombed the naval base on Dec. 7, 1941. (Getty Images/AP)

“They’re not necessarily pleasant,” he recalled, according to Hawaii News Now. “But I definitely don’t want to lose that memory.”

As a saxophone player assigned to the band aboard the USS Dobbin anchored off Ford Island, Schab was present at the base to meet with his brother when the attack started. During the incident, Schab reportedly helped load his ship’s anti-aircraft guns.

Asked about that day, Schab told Hawaii News Now that he remembered being in “disbelief” of what was taking place.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he said.

Ira "Ike" Schab

A white U.S. Navy cap, memorabilia and old photographs are displayed on the kitchen table of Pearl Harbor survivor Ira “Ike” Schab, 103, at his home in Beaverton, Oregon, on Nov. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Claire Rush)

Schab’s comments to the outlet came as he and several other Pearl Harbor survivors traveled to the region to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the attack and thereafter.

“There’s a certain feeling of comfort and at the same time obligation. That’s a good word,” he said. “I owe them. Just like that.”

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“Because I think I owe it to the guys that were there that aren’t there anymore,” he said. “Don’t forget it. Don’t forget it. Just keep it alive. It’s like a living thing.”

Ira "Ike" Schab

Ira “Ike” Schab, 103, looks at an old photo of himself with a saxophone while at home in Beaverton, Oregon, on Nov. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Claire Rush)

Today, Schab lives in Oregon, in a town called Aloha just outside Portland.

Schab returns to Hawaii when he can to commemorate the fallen and remember his friends and colleagues who died on a day that will continue to “live in infamy.” as President Franklin Roosevelt described it. In 2021, he almost did not make it due to financial constraints, but his family managed to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding to pay for his trip.

Ira "Ike" Schab memorabilia

Ira “Ike” Schab returns to Hawaii when he can to commemorate the fallen and remember his friends and colleagues who died on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/Claire Rush)

Schab’s trip this year was almost missed due to an illness, but his determination moved him to make the journey, according to his daughter.

“He got really sick earlier this year, almost left us, really scary,” Schab’s daughter, Kimberlee Heinrichs, told the outlet. “I’m talking to him saying, ‘Hey, it’s OK if it’s, you know.’ And he goes, and I quote, ‘Hell no! I’m going to Hawaii.'”

Pearl Harbor

Aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial, a memorial to the battleship that was sunk during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. (Getty Images)

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Schab will attend the Pearl Harbor commemoration on Thursday, which will culminate in a remembrance parade that evening.

Schab is the sole survivor from Navy Band 13, and among an ever shrinking number of service members who survived the dark day in U.S. history.



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