Smile! Click. Post. Repeat.
Herb Weatherwax, a spry 98-year-old World War II veteran, has been spreading aloha to tourists and locals at the Pearl Harbour Visitors Center for nearly 20 years. There is no comparison to hearing the stories of December 7, 1941 straight from the mouth of a Pearl Harbour survivor. Coupled with his endearing personality, there’s little wonder why everyone wants to capture the moment by snapping a photo with “Uncle Herb.”
On June 3, 1917, Weatherwax was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He faced numerous hardships from a young age, including the loss of both his father and step-father. His brother, Eddie, was sent to live at Kalaupapa on Molokai after being diagnosed with Hansen’s disease.
At the age of 24, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the 298th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks. While on Oahu, he worked as a switchboard operator at Pearl Harbour.
(RIGHT) Herb Weatherwax, a Pearl Harbour survivor, salutes during the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour. Photo Credit: Jay Pugh
PEARL HARBOR STORY
On the morning of the Pearl Harbour attack, Private Weatherwax was off-base on a weekend pass. He heard a deafening explosion and saw black smoke engulf the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. Over the radio, he learned that Japanese aircraft were dropping bombs on Pearl Harbour and rushed back to report for duty.
Driving past Pearl Harbour, he could see that the USS Oklahoma had been torpedoed and had flipped over with her hull up. In a YouTube video posted on September 4, 2006, Weatherwax states, “…and I remember seeing little objects scrambling on the hull of the Oklahoma. Those are the things that left a tremendous impression on my mind.”
Weatherwax gives a young admirer an autograph just before the 72nd anniversary commemoration of the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks. Photo credit: Nardel Gervacio
The USS Arizona was enveloped in flames. The sky was so full of black smoke he could barely see the planes overhead. The hangers and military planes at Wheeler Army Field were ablaze. The sight was devastating.
POST PEARL HARBOR ATTACK
In the aftermath of the attack, Weatherwax stayed on Oahu until 1944 when he left to train in the Signal Corps. He was reassigned to the 272nd Infantry Regiment, 69th Division and sent to Europe where he was responsible for disarming bombs. He survived the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle for the United States in WWII. The frostbite and other challenges he faced while stationed in Germany would eventually lead to his legs giving out on him.
After returning from the war, Weatherwax left the military and became an electrical contractor. In 1953, he established his own business, Weatherwax Electric, which continues to serve the Windward (Oahu) community today.
Not only is he a successful businessman and loving husband (married to his wife, Lehua, for 64 years!), he is also the best-selling author of Counting My Blessings, The Autobiography of a Native Hawaiian Pearl Harbour Survivor. Released in 2013 by Pacific Historic Parks, the book chronicles his life experiences before and after the war, giving insight as to what made Herb Weatherwax the man he is today.
“Uncle Herb” continues to charm visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial today and is often considered a Pearl Harbour tour highlight. In the video mentioned above, he explains, “I volunteer at the Visitors Center because this is an opportunity for me to give my story out to the hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of visitors that come out here.”
Sitting on his motorized scooter known as “Herb’s Hot Rod,” he shakes hands, answers questions, and encourages pictures…bringing him one step closer to his light-hearted goal of having his picture in every household in the world.
We honor Pearl Harbour survivor and World War II veteran Herb Weatherwax for everything he has done and continues to do for the community. Mahalo, “Uncle Herb!”
Native Hawaiian Pearl Harbour survivor shares his story in new book