Returning To His Fellows: Veteran Who Survived Pearl Harbor Laid To Rest In The USS Arizona

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor.

Jessica Marino brought the urn with her grandfather’s ashes in it from New Jersey to Hawaii. She was bringing him so he could be laid to rest in the USS Arizona, on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

Raymond Haerry was 94 when he passed away last year. On December 7, 1941, he was on the deck of the Arizona as the Japanese began their attack.

Over 900 sailors died when the Arizona sunk that day. Their remains still lie within the hull of the destroyed ship. Out of the 334 survivors, 41 have requested that their remains be laid to rest with their fellow sailors after they die.

Haerry grew up in Warwick, New Jersey, and raised his family there. He’s the 42nd sailor to rejoin his crewmates. There are only five more survivors left alive.

Marino was Haerry’s only grandchild. She is a 34-year-old freelance book editor who lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. The four of them accompanied Haerry’s remains to Hawaii.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

An American Airlines representative greeted the family as they entered the Newark airport. The airline’s veterans program paid for the family’s flight. At the gate, an honor guard of sailors in their dress uniforms stood at attention. A bagpipe player played. The airline’s representative mad an announcement over the speakers, giving the other passengers an introduction to Ray Haerry and a short bio of his life.

Haerry was 19 years old when an explosion threw him off of the Arizona. He swam to shore past the burning fuel in the water and defended the base with a .50-caliber machine gun. The rest of the day, he recovered bodies from the harbor in a patrol boat. He continued to serve in the Navy for another 26 years.

His ashes were transported in a simple plastic box, which Marino found appropriate given her grandfather’s straightforward nature.

He never talked about that day or about his time in the service. He’d never been back to Pearl Harbor. He still chose to be buried there.

The funeral was held on the day before Easter at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

There were over 100 people attending the funeral. Among the attendees was Tim Gray, a filmmaker from Rhode Island. He has made a career out of making WWII documentaries. One of them included Ray Haerry. It was his efforts that made it possible for Haerry to rejoin his crewmates. Gray intends to make another documentary about Haerry’s final journey called, “Journey Home to the USS Arizona.”

Gray said Haerry wanted to be buried on the Arizona because of the bond he had with his crewmates. The crew was a band of brothers, he said.

Daniel Martinez is the chief historian and ranger for the National Park Service which is in charge of the memorial. He spoke about the sacrifice that Haerry and his shipmates made. Rear Adm. John Fuller is the commander of the Navy base at Peal Harbor. He spoke about the gratitude that America felt toward the crew of the Arizona. A Navy chaplain read a poem about serving the final watch.

Jessica then headed down a ramp with the urn, escorted by the admiral. She handed the urn to a diver in the water who took it, saluted her, and then swam toward the Arizona, Providence Journal reported.

After a gun salute, the divers dove to the Arizona and placed the urn in an open gun turret where it sank to the bottom of the ship.

76 years after he survived the sinking of his ship, Ray Haerry joined his brothers in eternity.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE