"Worst day" recalled by Nebraska man at Pearl Harbor

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) It was moving day this week for 95-year-old Melvin Kennedy of Grand Island. Among items packed for a move to Omaha are memories of where he was 77 years ago Friday. A day most recall from the words then President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to describe it.

"A date which will live in infamy," Roosevelt said.

It was the the Japanese Empire attack a U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, bringing the U.S. into World War II. Kennedy was there that morning, taking sailors from their ships to shore in a shuttle boat. Then things changed.

"Here they come and, God, the planes were just there," said Kennedy. "Where they come from? We didn't see the ships coming at us."

Bud spent the rest of the day and night on that same 40-foot boat, only now pulling fellow sailors out of water that was covered in oil pouring from sinking battleships. Some lives they saved, others they couldn't

"An awful lot of people got helped out of the oil and we'd get them onto a raft or something so they could get out of that dang oil," Kennedy said.

Kennedy estimates he and one other sailor pulled at least 250 surviving sailors from the water that day.

Kennedy grew up in a family of nine, mostly on farms outside Cedar Rapids, NE. Family members often telling the story of the day the mailman came hollering up the hill to their home, waving a postcard, that the news had finally arrived - three months after the attack - that Bud had survived.

He had no idea at the time they went so long without knowing. The card was submitted to the Navy three days after the attack.

"No, we didn't know none of that, because, we didn't get no news."

With few hometown job prospects, and, he admits, just a little tired of going to high school, Kennedy may have "exaggerated" the truth a little to join the Navy at the age of 17. He had just turned 18 before the attack.

"The attack day, I mean it was terrible. You just can't imagine," Kennedy said.

Kennedy spent the rest of World War II on the destroyer U.S.S. Clark, traveled around the world twice and returned to Nebraska - raising ten kids with his wife, Bernita.

Always with him, memories of his date with infamy.

"Nothing ever compared to that Pearl Harbor. And we won after that."