Event honors Pearl Harbor survivors

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Today marks 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack

By Nancy Kennedy

Now there are two.


Today, Ted Archambault and Jack Cissel are scheduled to be among those honored at the annual Pearl Harbor Day Survivors ceremony and lunch at Stumpknockers on the River, sponsored by the Fleet Reserve Association Branch/Unit 186.

Archambault, of Homosassa, and Cissel, of Crystal River, are the remaining Citrus County survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Arthur Fusco, formerly of Inverness, has moved away but is planning to attend the event, said Bob Huscher, co-organizer with his wife, Joan, of the survivors’ event. They have been doing this for more than 20 years, beginning with 19 survivors.

In recent years they’ve included survivors from Marion County. This year they expect six remaining survivors to attend. All are in their late 80s or early 90s.

Archambault, who turns 95 this month, was 22 the day he received what he calls his “baptism into war.”

He had joined the Marines in 1940 and was stationed in Cuba when he was ordered to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He arrived Dec. 1, 1941.

On that fateful Dec. 7 morning, Archambault woke up to the sounds of incoming Japanese war planes and the bugler’s call to arms. Amid sounds of explosions, he and his buddies scrambled to action. 

At one point, he saw the face of a Japanese pilot as the enemy plane flew overhead. 

After the attack, which came in two waves, those who were able, helped pull burning people out of the water. He said the hospitals didn’t have enough beds for all the wounded and they had to lay people on the lawn. 

All these years later, he still remembers. He told the Chronicle in 2011, “You never know the horrors of war until you’re in it. I’ve forgotten names and some details, but something like that you don’t forget. Those on the ship who had survived the explosion were faced with a choice: burn to death or jump in the burning ocean and hope to survive. On the Arizona alone they lost almost 1,200, all in about five minutes.” 

Jack Cissel, 91, was a 19-year-old private first class in the Army, a radar operator assigned to the E Battery, 64th Coast Artillery Division. 

“We knew something was coming, something was going to happen,” he recalled. “We were issued 10 rounds of ammunition and a gas mask that we had to carry with us at all times.”

On that Sunday morning, Cissel was at his post at the radar station at the tip of Pearl City Peninsula, an elevated position only yards away from the 100 battleships, destroyers, cruisers and service ships in the harbor. 

Just a few minutes before 8 a.m., swarms of Japanese aircraft appeared and began to strafe targets and drop bombs and torpedoes. There was mass confusion amid huge black clouds of smoke and fire. 

“We didn’t know who they were; we were just a bunch of kids,” Cissel told the Chronicle in 2007. “We didn’t know anything. All you could do was shoot your 10 rounds of ammunition; then it was total helplessness.” 

With his pot helmet as his only protection, he fired at the enemy planes overhead, watching powerlessly as Navy battleships in Pearl Harbor were destroyed. 

He recalled listening to the explosions and seeing injured men fall overboard into the water and watching the West Virginia battleship get hit repeatedly. 

Earlier this week Cissel said he looks forward to being with other survivors at the annual event.

“I’ll go every year that I can,” he said.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.