LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Pearl Harbor survivors call for help
March 19, 2013 · Updated 5:14 PM
To the editor:
I’m a survivor and president of the USS Utah Survivors Association. It is my job to keep the memory alive of that wonderful old battleship, sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941 in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Every year we have a reunion in Las Vegas the second week in May. We go to Las Vegas because the weather is always good, the hotel gives us great rates and there is a lot to do. Considering that the youngest survivor (myself) is 89 years, the majority are in their 90s and most must travel with a caregiver.
As the years have depleted our ranks we find the expenses have increased and there are now so few of us to share the cost, I must ask for donations to continue.
Last year’s reunion was a marvelous success, there were five Utah survivors and two from other ships. The United States Navy sent two officers to speak at our banquet, they were absolutely wonderful. The number of people at our banquet was at least 50, there will be more this year.
At this writing, there are five Utah survivors planning to attend and four from other ships. One each from the USS Pennsylvania, USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and USS Tangier. All were either sunk or badly damaged during the attack. Considering how many survivors are still living, nine at our banquet is remarkable. This year we are attempting to bring John Barth (Jack) Vaessan, who received the Navy Cross for his bravery aboard the USS Utah during the attack. Jack stayed at his battle station until it was too late for him to abandon ship and he was trapped below decks. During the battle, a rescue party from the USS Raleigh climbed onto the Utah hull under fire, cut Jack out of the bottom and saved his life. Jack is 96 years old and we are going to see to it that he gets there safely and enjoys the company of his old shipmates.
If you would care to donate to our reunion in any amount, we would greatly appreciate it. You may send your donations to: USS Utah Association, Treasurer, 388 Blair Mine Road, Angels Camp, CA 95222.
President, USS Utah Association