Northlanders Vow To Remember Pearl Harbor Despite Dwindling Number Of Survivors

By KBJR News 1

September 22, 2013 Updated Sep 22, 2013 at 10:16 PM CDT

Cloquet, MN (NNCNOW.com)
When Gordy Caza of Cloquet passed away last Sunday at the age of 89, he took a bit of history with him.
Caza was a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

"There were hundreds of planes flying around and pretty soon here comes one right down over our parade ground where we were all standing and strafed the parade ground." said Caza.

Back then, Caza was a 17 year old Army truck driver stationed at Fort Armstrong near Honolulu.
That infamous Sunday attack meant four years of wartime service to his unit.

"That guy there had been overseas three years before the war started. He was supposed to go back to the States on Monday. Oh, he was mad!" said Caza.

The work that began that Monday was grim for Caza's unit.

"We were at Pearl Harbor taking the dead out of there, putting them in the trucks and they had a makeshift morgue in downtown Honolulu. We were hauling them all down there." said Caza.

With Gordy Caza's passing, it's thought there are only two Pearl Harbor survivors left in the Northland; one in Duluth and one in Hoyt Lakes.
It is estimated that more than 80–thousand service people survived the attack.
The best guess is that three thousand are left in America.
Arleigh Birk of Hoyt Lakes remembers a time when few cared.

"There was a time right after World War Two was over and for quite a few years the day came and went with no special occasion." said Birk.

That attitude changed years ago.
The Duluth VFW, for example, vows to continue its annual Pearl Harbor memorial whether there are three thousand, two or zero survivors.

"The VFW has made the commitment that we're going to do it as long as there's a post because we feel the honoring and memorializing of the sacrifice is important." said Brad Bennett of the VFW.

Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

Military veterans who want their service stories recorded for historical purposes can give oral histories to organizations like Veterans Memorial Hall in Duluth and the Bong Heritage Center in Superior.