Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Higgins dies at 102

Richard C. “Dick” Higgins, a 102-year-old survivor of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, died Tuesday at his home in Bend, Oregon.

“My grandfather was a very kind and humble man,” Angela Norton said. Her granddaughter said she always told jokes or made funny comments around the house to make her family smile.

“What made him so unique and so adorable is that he just wanted to share his story with anyone who would listen,” Norton said.

Whether it was a trip to local high schools or a purchase at Trader Joe’s, Higgins never missed an opportunity to share his tale of survival, Norton said.

“He would love to sit down and chat with random people just to tell them his story,” Norton told CNN. Higgins used to call the memory of her “living history.”

Higgins joined the Navy in 1939 and served as a radio operator at Pearl Harbor, a Hawaiian naval base on the island of Oahu, assigned to a seaplane patrol squadron.

It was 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese began dropping multiple bombs and torpedoes on the base.

That morning, Higgins remembers lying in his bunk on a covered lanai, similar to an enclosed porch, which he said would help protect the military from the island’s relentless mosquitoes.

And suddenly, sounds of explosions echoed throughout the base, Higgins said in a 2008 interview with the National Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

“They were very close, so I jumped out of my bunk and ran to the edge of the lanai,” he said in the oral report. “And just when I got there, a plane went over the barracks.”

Higgins estimated the plane flew approximately 100 feet high. The Japanese plane had red circle emblems painted on the wings, which Higgins described as “big red meatballs.”

“There was no doubt what was going on in my mind,” he said.

The attack lasted an hour and 15 minutes and killed nearly 2,500 U.S. service members and citizens, in addition to wounding more than 1,000 people, according to the National World War II Museum. factual report.

“And so, after it was all over, of course, we began cleaning up and transporting ammunition, to be ready for anything else,” Higgins said in the report.

During World War II, Higgins continued as a radio operator and served in the Dutch East Indies and the Aleutian Islands.

Despite his important role following the attack, Higgins did not seek recognition for his service. Instead, his main goal in sharing his story was to make sure the world knew the bigger picture.

“My grandfather always said, ‘I’m not the hero,'” Norton told CNN. “The heroes were those who did not return.”

There are 22 known survivors still alive today, according to Sons and daughters of Pearl Harbor survivorsorganization dedicated to the families and citizens of military personnel affected by the attack.

There is a possibility that there are more survivors alive who have not joined the association, according to Kathleen Farley, director of the organization.

Higgins was born on July 24, 1921 on a farm near Mangum, Oklahoma.

After serving 20 years in the Navy, he retired and worked as an aeronautical engineer for Northrop Corporation.

He earned his pilot’s license and spent his free time in the clouds or traveling the country with his wife, Winnie Ruth. The two were married for 60 years before she died of Alzheimer’s in 2004 at age 82.

“As he grew older and his body declined, he kept saying, ‘I’m ready to go home and be with Jesus and Winnie Ruth,’” Norton said.

Higgins died at home of natural causes, according to his family. Her granddaughter said she lived a full life and is proud of everything she overcame during her century of life.

Growing up, Norton remembers her grandfather cheering her on at sports games and staying over at her house. Higgins not only shared her account of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also other important historical events such as the Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, which she attributed to her exceptionally long life.

“He always said, ‘That old dirt from Oklahoma kept me fertile,’” Norton said.

Higgins’ legacy is continued by his two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“My goal is to tell my children and everyone else their story,” Norton told CNN. “So that it is always there and we do not forget it.”

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