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A Pearl Harbor Survivor From Texas Remembers

More than two dozen World War II veterans came to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on December 7, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They included Aaron Cook, one of the last living Texans to have survived the attack.

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Andrew Schneider
Aaron Cook, 94, Navy veteran and survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Fewer than 200 survivors remain from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of them, from Houston, was at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on Wednesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary.

Aaron Cook joined the Navy in 1940, straight out of high school in Fort Worth. A year later, he was a mess cook at Naval Air Station Ford Island. He was at the administration building when the first planes arrived.

"First plane released a bomb," Cook said. "I said, watching the bomb go by, I said, ‘That's the biggest bomb I ever saw.'"

It took a few moments for him and his buddies to realize an attack was underway.

"I said, ‘What do you think they're trying to hit?'" Cook remembers. "He said, ‘The garbage dump, down at the end of the island.' About that time, the hangar turned upside – they missed the garbage dump and hit the hangar. Somebody's gonna be in trouble."

The first order Cook received was to knock out all the windows in the building. That was to keep any bomb blasts from turning the glass into flying shrapnel.

Cook went on to serve as a gunner in combat aircrews throughout the war in the Pacific. He says that, four times over the course of the fighting, he wound up missing a flight at the last moment, and the plane to which he'd been assigned hadn't returned.

"I don't deserve to be, I'm supposed to be dead," Cook said. "But I've had some nice adventures."

After the war, Cook studied engineering and geology on the GI Bill, and went to work for what is now Halliburton. He lived in 22 cities over the course of his career. Today, he calls Houston home.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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