Bob Fitzgerald was stationed aboard the USS St. Louis (CL49) at the age of 20 when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.
An engineer, fireman second class, Fitzgerald and fellow crew members were moored next to the USS Helena, the first boat to be hit by a torpedo while docked.
"We had been in port about one week before (the attack)," Fitzgerald recalled. "We had just got back from the Orient and were there for ammo and supplies.
"The USS Helena was hit, but not sunk. The St. Louis was the first ship out of the harbor."
The Pearl Harbor Survivors Silver State Chapter One commemorated the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Wednesday at Grandma Hattie's Restaurant. About 15 members of the chapter were present, including former Nevada state Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen.
Gov. Kenny Guinn proclaimed Dec. 7 as Pearl Harbor Day in Nevada, and ordered flags be flown at half-staff in recognition of the day.
Fitzgerald recalled leaving port after the USS Helena was hit.
"The USS St. Louis steamed through oil fires, snapped a steel cable that linked a dredge to shore, and almost hit Ford Island. We rushed down the outer channel of Pearl Harbor at 22 knots.
"We got out of there immediately," Fitzgerald said. "The idea was to join up with the USS Enterprise and Saratoga, aircraft carriers, as a task force to locate the Japanese.
"I'm glad we never met up with the Japanese. But we also never met up with the carriers."
The St. Louis returned to port, and Fitzgerald was assigned to be in a whale boat to assist divers in locating the body parts of victims of the attack.
"It was a pretty nasty assignment," he said.
Fitzgerald, 84, was enlisted in the U.S. Navy for 15 years. He and his wife, Nene, recently moved to Reno from Santa Rosa, Calif., where he was a member of Chapter 23 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors.
The group, established in 1973 as the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, is seeking members to continue the legacy of their parents.
Mary Ellen Smith, national secretary of the group, attended Wednesday's commemoration.
"I came here specifically for the meeting and to try to find other children of Pearl Harbor survivors," Smith said.
Smith's father, Floyd, was aboard the USS Antares. The Smith family lived on Oahu at the time of the attack.
"I was just 6 months old so I do not remember anything. My father retired after 30 years in the Navy."
Smith can be contacted at SDPHS, P.O. Box 6139, Lakewood, Calif., 90714. The Web site of the group is www.wncc.edu/~bford/sdphs.htm.
One man in attendance waited patiently to speak. When called upon, he stood and told the veterans, "I was born just nine months before Pearl Harbor. I want to thank you for my freedom. I dearly respect this group. Thank you."
The Pearl Harbor Survivors chapter meets quarterly at 10 a.m. at Grandma Hattie's. For information, call 883-1842.
-- Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1223.