Floyd Welch was a hero during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He passed away on August 17th at the age of 99. He was the last remaining survivor of Pearl Harbor in Connecticut.
Born in Burlington, Connecticut in February 1921, Welch joined the Navy in 1940. He was serving on the USS Maryland as an electrician’s mate on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombers began their attack.
He had just finished his shower when the alarms went off followed shortly by the first explosions of the Japanese bombs and torpedoes. When he reached the deck, the first sight he saw was the smoke and flames from the USS Oklahoma next to the Maryland. The Oklahoma had been hit by as many as nine torpedoes.
He assisted in pulling survivors from the Oklahoma out of the water. He then joined others in climbing onto the overturned hull of the Oklahoma where they heard tapping coming from inside the sinking ship.
The group of sailors used blueprints to avoid cutting into fuel voids and began cutting holes in the armored hull of the Oklahoma. Whenever they heard the sounds of incoming planes, they ran for cover. In all, they managed to save 32 sailors through the holes they cut.
Over 2,400 people were killed in the Japanese attack. The Maryland itself was struck twice by torpedoes but received minimal damage.
Welch spent the entire war serving on the Maryland. He was awarded the American Defense Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with three stars, the Good Conduct Medal, and the United States Navy Constitution Medal.
He participated in operations to capture the Gilbert and Marshall Islands and fought in battles at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa.
During the battle at Saipan, the Maryland was again struck by Japanese torpedoes and had to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
The Maryland was also struck by a Japanese kamikaze plane and damaged while operating off Leyte and was repaired in time to join the operation in Okinawa where she was damaged again but remained in service for another week before returning to the States for an overhaul.
The war ended before the work was completed so the ship was used to transport US service members home before being mothballed and eventually scrapped.
After he left the Navy in 1946, Welch worked installing alarms, farmed and worked as a milkman before he opened his own construction company which built road infrastructures, foundations and drainage systems in the Northeast.
Welch was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association where he served as an officer for a time. He attended the 50th Pearl Harbor Survivors Memorial Ceremony and was a guest of honor at the 75th anniversary ceremony, both of which took place in Hawaii.
The association’s final chapter held its last meeting in September of last year after membership declined from a peak of 18,000 in the country to 2,700 most of whom were becoming unable to travel to association events.
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US Senator Richard Blumenthal said that he considered Welch to be a hero, not just by his words but by his actions, his dedication and his bravery. Welch is survived by his wife, Marjorie, six children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.