Nearly 80 years ago, Charlie Dowd was settling into his cot for some much-needed rest. Unfortunately, the day was December 7th, and he was stationed at Pearl Harbor.
“And then ‘ba-boom!’ I thought the place was going to come down. I ran to the window, just in time to see a PBY hangar rise up on a big ball of flame because it had been bombed,” said Dowd.
At age 97, Charlie Dowd of Anaconda is the last known surviving Pearl Harbor veteran in Montana.
Just 17 years old when the Japanese attack the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii in 1941, he was first ordered to take cover under some tables. Soon they were looking for volunteers to fight and Dowd and another sailor grabbed rifles, climbed to the roof of a building, and started shooting at the attacking planes.
“I was just in a T-shirt, that’s all I had on, and I was leaning on the parapet wall with my rifle. We had Springfield ’03 .30-06 rifles. The barrels of our guns were hot we fired them so much,” Dowd recalled.
Members of the American Legion Post 21 in Anaconda took Dowd out to lunch in Butte recently to honor his service and uncommon valor.
“It took a lot of fortitude to climb up on top of that building, you know, it really did. I can’t imagine scrambling to be on top of that and start shooting. So, it was definitely heroic,” said American Legion Post 21 Commander Wells Cahoon.
While the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor was a devastating battle, with many casualties, Charlie says he was proud to be there with T-shirt, his rifle, and the courage to fight back.