By Armithea Borel
At the 90th State convention for the Louisiana Veterans of Foreign Wars, held in Alexandria, a very special guest came for a visit. He is Mr. Joe Richard, the last survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, from Louisiana. Richard currently lives in Sunset and will be 96 years old next month.
He was serving on the USS Rigel at the time of the attack. Redesignated a repair ship, USS Rigel AR-11, on Apr. 10, 1941, she underwent an overhaul at Bremerton, Washington then sailed to Hawaii for more extensive repairs and alterations. By mid-July, she was at Pearl Harbor and was still in the yard on Dec. 7, 1941. She was without her authorized armament and superstructure and was slightly damaged during the Japanese attack. Her crew, unable to fire, immediately turned their skills to rescue and salvage operations.
Richard remembers that he and his crew cut 33 survivors out from the USS Arizona. Then, he said as they passed the USS Oklahoma, he heard knocking coming from within it. They were able to cut a hole and get three more men from that ship. While attending a reunion of the Pearl Harbor survivors he was reunited with one of those men.
What an honor for me, Past National President, to meet Mr. Joe and thank him for his incredible service.