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Pearl Harbor veteran: 'We could hear the bombings' | News

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Pearl Harbor veteran: 'We could hear the bombings'

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- It has been 74 years since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

On Monday, veterans gathered to pay tribute to the nearly 2,400 Americans killed on Dec. 7th, 1941, in Hawaii.

In a small chapel at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, Bill Campbell speaks to a group of veterans.

"Many of you will probably remember the phrase, 'Remember Pearl Harbor,'" Campbell said. "And that was because it was one of the biggest things to happen to our country to that point."

Campbell worries that Americans are forgetting the day.

"That is why I mention over and over again remember to remember Pearl Harbor ..." he added.

At least three people with ties to Kent County died in the attacks. This includes a pair of brothers who were misidentified.

"One brother sees the other brother being hit and ultimately dying. Word comes back to the family that one brother was dead, but they find out in February it was the other brother that had actually died," Campbell said

At the event, there is one veteran who was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.

"I was 19 on December 7, 1941," explains Herb Elfring. "Today, I am 93."

Elfring was in the Army. He was at a camp near the Pearl Harbor show. He was looking at a bulletin board on the morning of the attack.

"First thing I heard was a line of strafing bullets going across the road -- when I looked up, I saw a plane that had a big red ball on the fuselage," explains Elfring.

The plane was a Japanese Zero.

"Up until that time, we could hear the bombing and planes flying around," Elfring said. "We kind of assumed it was a kind of a maneuver."

He rushed his unit to work a radar site, but another plane strafed him and took out the radar power. The whole ordeal for him lasted just over an hour. Today, he says he is fortunate.

"Five years in the South Pacific total. I feel lucky that I can be back here to tell you about it."

As of two years ago, about 2,500 Pearl Harbor survivors were believed to still be alive.

Elfring hopes to return next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack.