Our nation paused Friday to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. We have many veterans in our region and on Friday we talked with one man who went to Pearl Harbor after the attack in an effort to help the Navy clean up the wreckage.
71 years ago our nation came under attack. Sinkler Gillenwater was 19 years old at the time when a friend saw a notice at school, “He saw on the bulletin board after school’s out they wanted deep sea divers and he says what's that and I said I don't know but it sounds interesting," Gillenwater said.
Gillenwater joined the Navy and a year later he was at the site of the attack on Pearl Harbor serving as a diver in the US Navy.
"They were supposed to clean out the ships to get them out of the harbor because they needed the harbor," adds Gillenwater.
Gillenwater and his fellow military members had the daunting task of diving in the waters where hundreds of US military members perished.
His photo albums are kept nearby with treasured photos of his days in the Navy. Some show the diving equipment Gillenwater used. He says it was very heavy for the dangerous job. "Every dive had to be volunteered. Nobody could ever order you down there. I got more than 1,200 hours down there all volunteer,” he said.
In addition to the task at hand, the divers were in rough conditions with water that wasn't ideal for diving, “You couldn't see a thing in the world, so many ships going in and out there churning up the harbor there where their ships sunk," he said.
Gillenwater tells us his memory today isn't what it used to be, but he still has some vivid images of his time spent serving our country. It’s a time he cherishes and reflects on every day, including this day the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Gillenwater tells us he earned good money working as a diver in the Navy; he got paid $5 an hour to dive, plus an extra $35 a month for being a diver.