Yesterday, on the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, survivors gathered on the USS Intrepid in downtown Manhattan for the annual wreath laying ceremony. Among the survivors was 94-year-old Aaron Chabin, a Queens resident who was an 18 year-old Private at the time of the attack. Chabin rece
In an interview with JTA, Chabin recalls relaxing while reading the Honolulu Advertiser in the Schofield Barracks that morning in 1941, when suddenly the surprise attack rocked the quiet island on Deccemeber 7, 75 years ago.
“Someone ran out on the balcony of the barracks, and they said, ‘It’s the Japs!'” he told JTA, “And someone else said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I ran out to get my weapon, and I went to my post, which was the communications center.”
Chabin’s commander handed the young soldier a loaded gun and advised him to keep his last bullet, ‘Don’t be taken prisoner,’ he said. “It was chaos.” Chabin was a new soldier at that time and had just recently finished his training. He spent the rest of the day relaying phone messages between officers and on guard duty.
Chabin was born in Detroit to a Jewish family, and soon after moved to New York. When he was 18 years old he enlisted in the army looking for adventure and potentially a career. He wasn't fit to join the infantry, so joined the communications division and was stationed at Signal Corps at Pearl Harbor.
“It was very confusing at the beginning,” he said. “Later on, we calmed down when we realized the Japanese weren’t going to invade the island,” Chabin told JTA.
When the war was over Chabin returned to New York and got married. After an attempt at a singing career, he moved to the liquor business and began managing several liquor stores around New York City. The couple have two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren together.
75 years later, he says there are few survivors still alive from the Japanese attack which killed 2,400 people dead.
In a statement, Senator Chuck Schumer said, “This day weighs heavy on the hearts of all Americans. While we can never repay those who gave their lives in defense of liberty, justice and democracy, we can honor their sacrifice by working together to ensure the ideals and freedoms we cherish always ring true.”