Maryville Man Remembers Survival at Pearl Harbor

Durward Swanson of Maryville had just dozed off to sleep when the Japanese attacked on December 7th, 1941.

Maryville (WVLT) - On this day in history, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2500 Americans.

It's a day that still lives in infamy for a Maryville man who shared with us his story of the survival of Pearl Harbor.

"I went into the service August 3, 1939." When Durward Swanson was sent to Hawaii with the army in 1941, never in his wildest dreams could he predict what was about to happen.

"I just had dozed off to sleep and I heard some noises and one of my motorcycle men came running through there hollering get up, get up, get up! The japs are bombing the hell out of us!" Swanson says.

Swanson jumped out of bed, not knowing what was outside: "I strapped on my 45 and jumped on my motorcycle, headed for the main gate. That's where we had always planned if anything had happened."

But all the planning in the world couldn't prepare him for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"I just missed death by ten minutes because a bomb hit there and killed 143 men eating breakfast in the mess hall that morning." Swanson says.

Swanson says he dodged planes left and right..."I went under the car, dove under the car and if he'd hit the car and the gas tank, I'd have been gone. I was scared."

But after more than two hours of bombings, the emotions evolved. Swanson says, "After they had done their damage and left, we got mad. I mean, it hit us, what are they trying to do? We won't let them get away with this now. No, no, no."

Thousands of men and women were killed in the attack. 66 years later, Swanson says he's grateful he survived to tell his story..."It was a long time before I'd even talk about it to anybody. I'd wake up in cold sweats."

Swanson wants today's anniversary to be a reminder for everyone: "Don't ever let your guard down. Our motto is remember Pearl Harbor and keep America alert."

Because of their age, the number of surviving members dwindles each year. There are currently 35 Pearl Harbor survivors in the state of Tennessee.