Pearl Harbor veteran and Ohio resident Joe Whitt has died at the age of 97

Pearl Harbor veteran and Ohio resident Joe Whitt has died at the age of 97
Joe Whitt passed away Wednesday at the age of 97. (Source: WXIX)

CINCINNATI (Cincinnati Enquirer) - Joe Whitt was aboard the USS San Francisco when the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor was launched on Dec. 7, 1941.

For decades after the attack, the man who served his country proudly would recall the “boom, boom, boom,” sounds of the bombs coming from the planes. On Wednesday, at the age of 97, the decorated veteran died, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement to the Enquirer saluting a true patriot and hero.

“On Wednesday, Ohio lost one of its true patriots and heroes in Joe Whitt, who survived the Pearl Harbor attack that began America’s involvement in World War II. Joe had been in the Navy for almost exactly a year and was aboard the USS San Francisco when the bombs fell out of the sky and changed our world forever,” DeWine said in his statement.

“Joe was a resident at our Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown and was a warm and engaging man. I had the honor of meeting him on Veterans Day in 2019. Joe had trouble with his sight in his later years and would often hold the hand of the person with which he spoke to show his appreciation and make sure his thoughts were being shared. Our condolences and prayers go out to his devoted wife, Judy, and the many other loved ones he leaves behind — all of us a little wiser and truly grateful for his amazing deeds and life.”

In a 2016 interview with the Enquirer, Whitt said he could clearly recall the horrors of the Pearl Harbor attack.

He and other seamen were dressed in white Navy shorts and T-shirts. Some were attending church as the attacks began just before 8 a.m, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer. The San Francisco was in dry-dock, and a huge crane covering it helped prevent damage to the ship as the bombs fell.

“They sounded ‘Battle Stations,’ " he said. “I was out in the open. You could see the Japanese planes. All you could hear was ‘boom, boom, boom.’”

Whitt witnessed the sinking of the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and USS Utah, which were hit by bombs or torpedoes. He remembered being given a Marine rifle to use; very few arms and little ammunition were aboard the San Francisco while it was in drydock.

“They sent us to the rear of the ship, and we were shooting at planes with our rifles,” he said.

That day, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded.

Whitt served for six years and in 17 major battles during World War II. When he left the Navy, he was a Bosun Mate first class. He worked for 38 years as a service technician for Coca-Cola.

Whitt is survived by his wife Judith, and his son, Rodney (Judy) Whitt and daughter Carolyn (Jon) Larson. He had six grandsons and seven great-grandchildren, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Whitt, of Bethel, Ohio, was born in 1923 in Elliott County, Kentucky to Estill and Sarah Whitt. He was one of nine children and is survived by three siblings.

His grandson, Peter Larson, said the proud veteran will be sorely missed by his family.

“Joe Whitt was a man of action with seemingly endless stories. He fought from Pearl to Tokyo Harbor. He built his home with his own two hands and filled it with his art,” Larson said. “He lived like no one I’ve ever met and he loved his family beyond measure. We will miss him dearly.”

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 19, at the E.C. Nurre Funeral Home, 177 West Main Street, Amelia, Ohio. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20 at the same location.

Memorial contributions may be sent directly to Pacific Historic Parks, P.O. Box 29940, Honolulu, Hawaii 96820-2340.

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