It had been several years since Pearl Harbor survivor Jack Rogo went back to Hawaii for an anniversary event. However, whenever he goes back, he remembers the events of Dec. 7, 1941, like it was yesterday.
"You have some kind of total recall," he said. "When I talk to you about it today, I can see what I'm talking about in my head."
Rogo, 95, of North Hollywood, visited the Burbank Noon Kiwanis Club at the Burbank Community YMCA on Wednesday to talk about his recent trip to Hawaii to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on the naval base.
Stationed at Ford Island, which sat in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Rogo was getting breakfast the morning of the attack. The mess hall he and others were in was filled with the sounds of explosions and shook with every detonation.
"The rumor was that the armory was on maneuvers, so we didn't pay any more attention to it," he said. "But some of the explosions were very loud, and you just couldn't comprehend what was going on at the time."
When he left the mess hall after breakfast, Rogo learned what all the commotion was about and was stunned at what he saw.
"The [USS] Arizona had just blown, and I could see that the [USS] Oklahoma was beginning to turn over," he said.
Rogo began scrambling, trying to figure out what to do. He and many other sailors were herded into a shelter.
"That was the most frightening part of my experience," he said. "Listening and hearing the building shake and not knowing what was going on."
Eventually, Rogo began to help pull out men who had jumped out of sinking battleships and into the harbor.
"A boat came by with a lot of wounded men," he said. "A lot of those guys were covered in oil. They had swallowed burning oil and everything else."
Rogo has told his story to hundreds of people and, for 10 years, was a regular speaker at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School. Though the tragic events of that day occurred 75 years ago, Rogo said he does not mind sharing his experiences of that day with everyone he meets.
Chuck Chavoor, president of the Burbank Noon Kiwanis Club, said he was happy and honored that Rogo was able to stop by the group's meeting to tell his story.
"It's a connection with history, and I suspect that everyone is going to want to shake his hands and make that same connection," Chavoor said.
Anthony Clark Carpio, firstname.lastname@example.org