The sound of soaring planes, machine guns firing and the crashing torpedoes are sounds that two Quad Cities men can still hear.
Al Taylor and Robert Cewe were 18 and 21 years old when their country was attacked by Japanese forces on December 7th, 1941.
They are two of three Quad Cities veterans who were at Pearl Harbor on that frightful day. They still recall every little detail of that morning.
Robert Cewe was a machine gunner in the Navy. He says he knew something was wrong early that day.
“I said, ‘Something is wrong, they are firing machine guns on Sunday during church hours,” Cewe said.
Suddenly, Cewe was picked up by several men in a pickup truck and they were rushed to the scene.
During that same time, Taylor was a medic for the Army. As soon as the attack began, so did Taylor’s job of saving lives.
“I had 67 ambulances and people kept calling and calling for more ambulances,” said Taylor.
The blaring sound of the ambulance sirens mixed with the explosions was enough to make Cewe realize the seriousness of what was taking place.
“I was wishing I was back home,” said Cewe.
But he was far from the Quad Cities. He was thousands of miles away in a war zone.
Suddenly, Cewe recalls when the U.S.S. Arizona was sunk.
“I could hear when the Arizona went off, she rumbled the island,” Cewe said.
More than 1,000 officers and crew members died aboard the Arizona. Cewe had friends who didn’t make it out of the ship.
“I have got some mourning from it, I lost some good friends,” said Cewe.
Taylor recalled the captain in charge ordering him to go play taps with another soldier after the attack. He said it was one of the hardest things he has had to do.
“I played the taps and I cried the whole time,” said Taylor.
Today, Taylor is 90 and Cewe is 93. Taylor lives in Davenport, while Cewe resides in Port Byron. Both men count themselves as lucky, but they still can’t forget that day.
An emotional Cewe said he is thankful.
“I’m alive I guess, thank the good lord for that,” Cewe said.
Al Taylor and Eldon Baxter will be going back to Pearl Harbor in December 2013 courtesy of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 299. Taylor said he initially didn’t want to go, but like a good soldier, he agreed to go.