90 year old Durward Swanson speaks at Pope High School about surviving Pearl Harbor.
MARIETTA, Ga. - When the Pope High School Band goes to Waikiki in November for the parade that will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they'll probably know more than any other unit in that observance about the December 7, 1941 battle.
They're practically travelling with their own tour guide, 90 year old Pearl Harbor survivor Durward Swanson. The Troup County, Ga. native met a previous edition of the Pope band years ago at the annual Waikiki event, and he's become friends with band director Gary Gribble. Swanson knows this will be his last journey to the place where he lived, served, and fought.
"I just missed death by about ten minutes. I left the mess hall where about 140 men died later, and went to my quarters. When the bombing started I still had my pants on, threw a shirt on and went to the airfield." Japanese planes were strafing the area at that time.
After Pearl, where he was an MP, he went back to his previous duty on a B-17 crew. His plane was shot down in June of 1942 with only three of the crew of ten surviving.
He recently spoke to the 2011 Pope band at the school telling them "anytime you see a man or a woman in uniform, say a prayer to yourself thanking God we have people like that to protect us".