SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — This week WCBS 880's Sean Adams spoke with members of the Greatest Generation as part of special series to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
In the first installment, Adams speaks with 99-year-old Armando "Chick" Galella from Sleepy Hollow who served for the entirety of the war.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Galella survived the attack at Pearl Harbor.
"All I saw of the ships was smoke and flames. Smoke billowing, it covered the clouds. I said, 'Nothing must be left.' Pearl Harbor was full of smoke," Galella recalled. "It was devastating. The men in the Navy had no more chance than a snowball had in hell."
Galella was in the Army Signal Corps at Hickam Air Force Base. When the Japanese attacked, he dove for cover in a sewer.
His childhood friend from Sleepy Hollow, John Horan, was killed in the attack.
"When they were bombing Hickam Field we were going through the parade grounds, that's how John got killed, cause they went straight for the parade grounds," Galella said.
Galella is haunted by the memory of the body bags.
"This might be your son or your brother or somebody, and that's what I think about and sometimes tears run down my eyes," Galella said.
As the war dragged on, Galella went to Tinian, Saipan and Okinawa before finally he was released four years after Pearl Harbor.
News of the end of the war reached him just as he pulled into San Francisco on a ship.
For 75 years he has made it his solemn duty to bear witness and speak for those who did not come home.
"Four-hundred of us die a day, we're all in our 90s," Galella said. "If you see a veteran say, 'Thank you for your service. Thank you.'"
Galella now shares his experiences with young people.
"I tell people this too, I'm not a hero, I want you to understand this, I'm a survivor of the war, all your heroes have white crosses they're your heroes. They're the ones you respect, not me. And I tell that to the students," Galella said.
Adams reports Galella and his son will get an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii to mark the Sept. 2 commemoration of V-J Day aboard the USS Missouri.