Most people know what happened at Pearl Harbor from history books but Glover Manning Jr. was actually there.
The 100-year-old retired Navy chief petty officer, a Midway resident, was honored with other World War II veterans at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony Dec. 4, at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack.
Manning is the first Pearl Harbor survivor to be honored at the ceremony in four years.
He was 19 when he joined the military and said he did it because he was unemployed and the military paid for everything—food, housing and clothes. Manning was aboard the USS Rigel AR-11 at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
"I was on the repair ship Rigel and we were sent to Pearl Harbor to change our boilers. The Rigel is an old WWI ship. They sent us there to have new boilers installed and we were to stay there and do minor repairs for ships and crafts," Manning said.
He said he was dressed in his whites and ready to meet with his family for a sightseeing tour around the island when the harbor was attacked.
The USS Rigel did not have any ammunition to fire back, so he and his fellow shipmates resorted to using something else.
"They take your ammunition off when you go in the Navy Yard. We got some potatoes to throw at the Japanese as they dropped their bombs on the fighting ships, battleships and cruisers," Manning said. "The fleet had been on maneuvers and they had finished the maneuvers and came into Pearl Harbor for a rest. It was an ideal time for the Japanese to attack us. It was many days, several weeks before they let us go ashore."
Manning did not recognize who attacked until someone told him. The Rigel had been repairing ships closer to Japan and in the South Pacific. He went to New Zealand, Australia and other Pacific islands, repairing small boats as needed.
He recalled being stunned at what was happening and could only think of calling them bad names and wanting payback.
After retiring from a 20 year career in the Navy, Manning worked at Hunter Army Airfield for another 20 years and retired again.
"It’s nice that they didn’t just drop me and say, ‘You’re finished, we don’t need you anymore,’" he said.
He now resides in Midway with family, many of whom were also at the ceremony.
"I’m being well treated by my family and by the nation," Manning said.
Manning gave this advice to current service members: "Do your duty, respect your officers and do the job—whatever it is. Whatever they teach you to do, do the best you can," he said.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter presented Manning with a proclamation he entered in Manning’s name into the congressional record.
Gary Johnson, chairman of the Pearl Harbor Day Ceremony for the Navy League of the United States said he was so happy to have Manning there with his family and to be able to honor WWII veterans.
"I think it’s a wonderful thing for the younger generations to come. We have families here, ex-servicemen, young people, old people and it’s a wonderful thing to remember these veterans from WWII and Pearl Harbor."
Captain Paul Young, commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two, was the guest speaker.
Judy Weiher talked about being at Pearl Harbor, where her father was stationed, and her memories on the day it was attacked.
The ceremony was hosted by the Navy League, Fleet Reserve Association and the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.