Milt Card, last known Pearl Harbor survivor from Aurora
By Matt Hanley Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com November 19, 2012 8:56PM
A 1939 graduate of East High Milt Card enlisted in the Navy right after High school and couldn't find a job, "I just liked ships," he said. Card was stationed at Pearl harbor for two years prior to the attack and was there on December 7, 1941. "A lot of sailors did their day in hell that day," Card said. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:28AM
The man believed to be the last Pearl Harbor survivor from Aurora has died. Milt Card, 92, died Friday at a healthcare center in Naperville.
Card joined the Navy shortly after graduating from East Aurora High School in 1939, then re-enlisted in April 1941.
He was 21-years-old on Dec. 7, 1941, stationed on the USS Tracy. There were about 60,000 soldiers stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time; more than 2,400 died that day.
“I’m lucky that I got out of Pearl Harbor. I must have had angels on my shoulders,” Card told The Beacon-News last year. “I was always a nice guy. I didn’t have meanness or hate. That day, it taught me how to hate.”
After the first attacks, Card and three other men went to fight fires on the USS Pennsylvania. As they were leaving, a captain told Card, a cook, he needed to keep making food and coffee all day. The Pennsylvania’s fire got too close to an ammunition locker and the other three men who were with Card were killed. The next day, Card was one of the sailors who reported to the USS Arizona to recover bodies.
“I was crying, I was cussing,” Card told The Beacon-News. “Some of the guys were taking some of the bodies off, but they were just black. Made you sick.”
Most of the bodies remained on the ship, which is now the centerpiece of a memorial.
Card also was one of 30 men to survive a destroyer sinking near New Guinea. After the war,
Card and his wife had seven kids — “not a single bad one, all of them are great” — and he opened Milt’s Barber shop in Aurora. Card worked as a barber in Aurora until he was 80-years-old.
Almost 71 years after the attack, the exact number of remaining Pearl Harbor survivors is not clear. The president of the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association died last year and the organization disbanded.
Ten years ago, seven survivors with local connections attended the Pearl Harbor Survivors Luncheon held in Aurora. Last year, there were five survivors, but only two with Fox Valley connections. Since then, North Aurora resident George Hettinger died in April, and now Card.
Organizers said this year’s luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Dec. 10 at Gaslite Manor in Aurora. Three survivors are expected to attend, including two men who have recently moved to the Fox Valley.
Card rarely missed one of the Pearl Harbor Day luncheons. He was proud of his service, but said he attended the luncheon for men like Eugene Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons and Card both went to East Aurora High School and were stationed in Pearl Harbor. They ran into each other on Dec. 5, 1941, and made plans to get together two days later.
“I’ve had nightmares over the years,” Card told The Beacon last year before the luncheon. “You try not to think about it, but it’s there in your subconscious all the time. December 7th, ’41, was the day that hell was re-created in the bay of Pearl Harbor. A lot of sailors did their day in hell in the fire that day. I think they got their reward by going to heaven the same day. At least I hope so.”
Card’s funeral is scheduled for noon Tuesday at the Daleiden Mortuary in Aurora.