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Fredericksburg museum honors Pearl Harbor survivors

Thursday was the 76th anniversary of Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. And every December 7 the people who survived the attack are honored in Fredericksburg. (CBS Austin)

Thursday was the 76th anniversary of Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. And every December 7 the people who survived the attack are honored in Fredericksburg.

As the years pass, fewer of them are able to make the trip. But this time we met one who can only be described as a true survivor.

This year only two Pearl Harbor survivors made it to the annual Pearl Harbor Day event at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. 97-Year-old James Leavelle felt honored to be there. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Leavelle was on the USS Whitney, a destroyer tender. Leavelle remembers, “We didn't get hit so we didn't lose any people. But we could see what was going on around us very easily."

Levelle became a witness to history, perhaps witnessing too much that day. He says, “The main thing i remember that I try to forget and still bothers me a little bit is to see the bodies floating out there knowing what they were and knowing we couldn't do anything about them at the time"

And it wouldn't be the last time Leavelle would witness history. He says, “I had the pleasure of escorting (Lee Harvey) Oswald around and I happened to be handcuffed to him the day he was shot by Jack Ruby."

Yes, Leavelle is the man in the tan suit in those iconic photographs taken following the Kennedy assassination. So between Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy Assassination, how has he made it this long? Leavelle answers "Well I could be a little facetious and say clean living. But some people would laugh at that, a navy man having a clean life."

Nonetheless a true survivor.


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