Raymond Haerry ran away from home to join the Navy and landed in the middle of history.
Haerry was barely 18 when he enlisted in early 1940. He had enrolled at MIT after finishing high school in New Jersey, but he didn’t like his classes and finally dropped out. In September 1940, he joined the USS Arizona as its crew prepared the mighty battleship for war.
On Dec. 7, 1941, he was aboard the Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, launching America's entry into World War II and forever changing the course of modern history.
The explosions blew Haerry off the ship, into the water, but he survived. He made a career in the Navy, sailing the seas during World War II and the Korean War, teaching officer candidates on land in the years after.
Haerry died Sept. 27 in West Warwick, R.I., at the age of 94.
'They could hear the bombs'
Of the 1,512 sailors and Marines assigned to the Arizona when it sank, 1,177 died in the attack.
Of those who survived, Haerry's death leaves five remaining survivors:
• Lauren Bruner, 95, of La Mirada, Calif.
• Lou Conter, 95, of Grass Valley, Calif.
• Lonnie Cook, 95, of Morris, Okla.
• Ken Potts, 95, of Provo, Utah
• Donald Stratton, 94, of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Haerry’s son, Raymond Haerry Jr., said he wanted his father’s remains to be interred in the submerged Arizona at Pearl Harbor, an honor accorded men who were members of the ship’s final crew. Those arrangements are pending.
Haerry was born Nov. 28, 1921, in Patterson, N.J. He grew up in Patterson and, after finishing high school, enrolled at MIT.
His son, Raymond Jr., said his dad and a buddy used to sneak off campus and hop freight trains to see how far they could get. After a while, he missed enough classes that he decided to leave school. Once he turned 18, he joined the Navy.
His first assignment was aboard the USS Ranger, an aircraft carrier. He heard the Arizona was looking for crew members, so he answered the call and, in September 1940, he boarded the battleship and waited with it as it was refitted in Bremerton, Wash.
On board the Arizona, he worked on the deck crew, cleaning and painting, operating the boats that ferried crew members to shore. He had taken a load of crew members to shore at Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7 and was eating breakfast back on the ship when the Japanese attack started.
"He said they could hear the bombs, hear the planes immediately,” Raymond Jr. said in a 2014 interview.
Haerry could see enemy planes strafing the deck. He made it to his battle station on the anti-aircraft gun battery, but within minutes, the largest of the bombs rocked the Arizona.
“He said he felt the entire ship lift up eight or 10 feet out of the water,” Raymond Jr. said. “When it came down, he was knocked into the water, overboard. He was blown into the water.”
He half-walked, half-swam to nearby Ford Island, where he found a machine gun and began firing at planes until the attack subsided.