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Culture Beat / Sep. 8, 2020

Saying Goodbye to a Pearl Harbor Patriot

Floyd Welch did what every sailor would do — he jumped into the fray to save lives.

The Greatest Generation that won World War II is, one by one, leaving us. “Floyd Welch, who was credited with saving the lives of fellow sailors during the attack on Pearl Harbor, has died in Connecticut,” reports the Associated Press. “He was 99.”

Welch was serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Maryland on the fateful morning of December 7, 1941. He heard the first alarm just as he was coming out of the shower. Soon came the first explosions, and his first sight upon reaching the deck was the stricken USS Oklahoma, moored just next to the Maryland — it was overturned and burning.

Welch sprang into action. The AP says, “He helped pull survivors from the Oklahoma out of the water. He and others then climbed onto the Oklahoma, where they heard tapping coming from inside the ship.”

Of that experience, Welch later wrote, “By using blueprints of the Oklahoma, so as not to burn into a fuel void, we began the long and extremely difficult process of cutting holes through the bottom steel plates of the Oklahoma. When we could see the planes coming, we would try to find cover. We would cut near where we heard the trapped crewmen tapping. In all, I believe 33 men from the Oklahoma were rescued through these holes.”

He served on the Maryland throughout the war, and he was awarded the American Defense Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with three stars, the Good Conduct Medal, and the United States Navy Constitution Medal.

Rest in peace.

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