Memories vivid for Reynoldsburg veteran

Memories vivid for Reynoldsburg veteran

As Japanese planes flew over Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Louis Sebastian didn't want to get out of bed.

Sleeping aboard Yard Oiler 21, a fueling ship, he had gotten to bed less than three hours before.

Sebastian, 24 years old at the time, had gone out with others the previous night to go to around to the aircraft carriers and ask for food because they didn't have any aboard their ship.

"Anything we wanted, they'd give us," said the Reynoldsburg resident, now 90.

They got to bed at 5 a.m. The attack happened at 7:59 a.m. His brother, Andy, rushed in, trying to wake him.

"I told him to leave me alone, and I told him if he didn't, I was going to throw him overboard," he said.

Another friend tried to rouse the sleepy Louis without luck.

"My brother came back again, and that's when I knew we were at war," he said. "I looked at the Arizona and saw black smoke. It was terrible," he said. "A lot of nice young kids got buried that day."

The crew was ordered to go alongside the California, he recalled.

"We went alongside of her for three days and three nights, pumping water and oil off of it," he said. "We had to do it."

Sebastian said the only reason he was even at Pearl Harbor was to be with his brother. After boot camp, he asked the Navy to send him to Hawaii so the siblings could be reunited.

He said there were 16 ships at Pearl Harbor that awful morning.

"They all had a torpedo in them," he said.

And he vividly remembers the American counterattack.

"We had a lot of guys on machine guns, shooting. They shot a lot of planes down. We could have shot more down," he said.

As for the American planes, many of them didn't survive the attack.

"Our planes were all in line and a lot of them were destroyed on the ground. I don't know why they put them in line," he said. A

nd he said death was the furthest thing from his mind.

"There was no such thing of being scared of death," he said. "All we tried to do is see who we could save."

Sebastian said his brother would go out and be gone for four to five hours, rescuing people and then come back and work on the California. They just kept fighting to keep the ship from sinking, he said.

Three men worked under the ship to make temporary repairs --"Anything to keep it afloat." And keep it afloat they did.

Three months later, the California would fight in battle again. Sebastian lost one friend, Walt, in the attack.

Talking about his experiences 66 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sebastian couldn't recall Walt's last name, but said he was from Elyria just like the Sebastian brothers and was a schoolmate of Andy's.

Walt died aboard the Oklahoma when it was bombed.

"It was upside down in the water. The men in there couldn't do anything about it," Sebastian said.

He is emotional to this day about the attack. "It was terrible; 1,100 boys died, all young people. They just got out of high school," he said, his voice quivering.

"When you see something like that, you never forget it. It stays with you forever."

And he has never forgotten.

Jenny Walsh, director of the Reynoldsburg Senior Center, said she used to see Sebastian there often.

"He used to work at Kroger after he retired to go to Pearl Harbor reunions," she said. "He worked there to pay for the expense of traveling. He went to the 50th anniversary and kept going back every five years.

"He's a very kind person," she said. "Any war shapes a man. They realize they're lucky to be here, and they make the most out of their lives."

Sebastian spent five years, seven months and 14 days in the Navy. He then left the Navy, was married and worked at a Dodge plant in Detroit, making foot pedals and brakes.

He then ended up working at the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a printer. Sebastian had a daughter, Barbara. When she was married, Sebastian and his wife, Margaret, moved to Reynoldsburg in 1981 to be closer to her.

Sebastian recalled the 65th Pearl Harbor anniversary aboard the Arizona, now a memorial.

He said he met a Japanese man who had been one of the bombers that fateful morning. He was with his two daughters, who translated his discussion with Sebastian.

"He was a Japanese pilot. He said he didn't want to do it, but if he didn't, they would have shot him," Sebastian said.

He remembers the conversation as being very emotional.

"I forgave him," he said. "He didn't know what he was doing. It was bomb or die. So he bombed."

But that wasn't the only intense experience Sebastian had aboard the memorial:

"Every time I go aboard the Arizona, I hear the boys say, 'get off me.' They're telling me to get off them. You get off with tears in your eyes.

"Somebody talks to you about it, you come to tears thinking about all the boys that died," he said."I just want to tell it like it was."

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