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Survivor Clarendon R. Hetrick Dies

Clarendon Robert Hetrick
Clarendon Robert Hetrick (Photo credit: David Rush / U.S. Navy)

By William Cole
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — USS Arizona survivor Clarendon “Clare” Hetrick was looking forward to the reunion of his shipmates in Hawaii on the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack this December.

“I just talked to him the day before and he was so excited about all the things that we had planned in our schedule and what was going on, and he just couldn’t wait to get out there,” said Randy Stratton, the son of another Arizona survivor, Don Stratton.

But now the USS Arizona survivor tally is down to six. Hetrick, 92, died Monday in Las Vegas surrounded by his family.

“Dad was a great man, survivor of the USS Arizona, Lexington and Saratoga,” his son, Robert said on a website devoted to raising funds for the survivors to come out to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary. “After his military career, jobs were scarce, so he created his own contracting farm labor, then retiring and eventually moving to Las Vegas.”

The former mess cook was 18 years old when the attack on Pearl Harbor and his ship began. He was shaving and ran to his battle station in his skivvies.

When an aerial bomb struck the ship, setting off a massive chain-reaction explosion, Hetrick headed up a ladder, pushing a stuck sailor through in the process, and jumped over the side.

“If I had been almost anywhere else (on the ship), I wouldn’t be here,” he said on a visit to Hawaii in 2006. “I didn’t get so much as a scratch.”

A total of 1,177 sailors and Marines died on the Arizona, with most still entombed there. Only 335 survived the “Day of Infamy,” according to the National Park Service, which administers the memorial.

Many survivors were aboard the battleship during the attack while others were away on liberty, attending training, or assigned to special duty ashore.

Hetrick will be returning to the Arizona — to have his ashes interred with fellow shipmates. His family hopes the ceremony will occur on Dec. 7, when the ashes of another former crew member, John Anderson, also will be interred. Anderson died in November at the age of 98.

A website put together by the Arizona families, arizonafinalsalute.com, seeks to raise $35,000 to help the survivors and their families return to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary.

The number of survivors planning to come is down to five, with one, Raymond Haerry, in poor health in Rhode Island, Randy Stratton said. “But we’re bringing out his son to represent his dad,” Stratton said.

©2016 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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