SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – We are losing more and more members of America’s “Greatest Generation” every year.
In Spartanburg, however, lives a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack.
7 News paid a visit to Robert Henderson who recalls vividly the “date which will live in infamy.”
He just turned 100 years old last week but Henderson still knows how to pump some iron and break a sweat in his home gym.
He may still know how to show off a little for our news cameras but you won’t hear him brag too much about his storied military career.
“I guess we don’t talk about it much you know. Occasionally if somebody asks me,” said Henderson.
Henderson was 20-years-old when he enlisted with the Marines.
“I had to get permission from my dad because back in those days you had to be 21 to get in,” he recalled.
From his boyhood home in Wisconsin, Henderson was shipped off to San Diego for basic training.
“From there I went to Pearl Harbor,” he said.
Henderson was a 22 year old Marine and part of a detachment assigned to the naval base when Pearl Harbor was bombed and torpedoed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.
“That first plane came right by me I could see the pilot easy and he went down to drop a torpedo. I was as close as maybe 200 yards. He came in and hit I believe the Virginia is what got hit first,” said Henderson. “I was probably 300 yards from where the ships were that were hit. so I saw a lot of torpedoing and a lot of ships that were hit and were sunk.”
Henderson remembered a lot of confusion in those initial moments.
“We all got our weapons because we didn’t know if they were coming back again or not,” he remembered.
In a matter of hours, the Japanese killed 2,400 Americans.
Twenty-one ships were sunk or damaged.
After the attack, America entered the war. It was a war Henderson witnessed at the beginning and as it would turn out he would also be there for the end of it.
“I ended up at Okinawa so I was in the first battle of the war at Pearl Harbor and I was at the last in Okinawa. My friend I work out with he says you got a lot to talk about,” said Henderson.
He has a lot to talk about and a lot to be thankful for.
“Thankful we survived,” he said.
Henderson was discharged at the end of the war.
He would find his way to Spartanburg where he raised three children with his wife who passed away in 2018.
Henderson stays busy lifting some weights in his garage and spending time with his children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren.