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Pearl Harbor survivor featured at annual event

Niles Navy veteran, 100, died in 2020

CHAMPION — Although he died three years ago, Adone “Cal” Calderone of Niles, a World War II Navy veteran, told his story about surviving the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor via a video recording.

His story was the highlight of the annual “Pearl Harbor & Beyond” program Wednesday at Kent State University at Trumbull, which was coordinated by the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission. The program commemorated the 82nd anniversary of the bombing at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“The significance of Pearl Harbor & Beyond Remembrance Day is to continue to bring awareness of this horrific surprise attack by Japanese fighter planes on our military. We work diligently to keep the memory of those who died at Pearl Harbor, and also those few who may still be with us, who survived the attack,” Cari Delgado, deputy director of the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission, said.

Delgado graduated from Jackson-Milton High School in 1994 and enlisted in the Navy two years later. During her seven years in the Navy, she spent five on active duty and was stationed in Nagasaki and Pearl Harbor.

After her tenure, she began heading the Remembrance Day in 2007 and has continued the day of awareness ever since, noting it has become near and dear to her heart. She met her husband, Jesse, in the Navy. The couple has been married for 18 years and have six children.

The program began with entertainment by swing dancers Barbara Gould and Tom Celedonia, who performed to music from the 1940s. They have been dance partners for more than 20 years.

Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission Director Herm Breuer introduced several short clips by Calderone, who died in 2020 at the age of 100. He was a survivor of the attack on the USS West Virginia and never wanted to look back, think about or speak about this horrifying event ever again, according to his son, Greg.

“My inability to even speak about this incident again was not fair to those who gave their lives. So, for a few years I thought, in my troubled mind, that by lecturing about this, might just be a way to give back by paying my respects to those who have perished,” Calderone said in a recorded interview.

“I love history, but I only speak at these lecture halls for one reason. I do it for the heroes at Pearl Harbor during what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called ‘a date which will live in infamy.’The heroes are the ones that died, not those of us who survived. I do it for them because someone has to remind all Americans what and who we lost that day,” Calderone said, adding it was an honor to speak on their behalf.

He described the attack and what he experienced in another recorded clip.

“I thought something rammed into our ship. But then the second one hit that sounded like an explosion, and something didn’t sound right. We were ordered to go to general quarters. When we got there, the whole area was destroyed and gone. We were all confused and headed for the deck. Before we could make it to the deck, we heard the USS Arizona explode as they were being pulverized by artillery shells designed to penetrate a ship’s hull.

“If we would have been on the ship’s deck, we would have died from the debris of shrapnel that rained down on our USS West Virginia. An officer said we need ‘duty damage’ because of the attack. We needed help below deck. There was a threat the ship would sink because it was listing. By that time, many of us were trapped below deck, under water, in our bomb and torpedo damaged battleship. As the ship began to fill with water and sink, several of us grasped each other with both hands and kicked to get to an opening. Luckily, we were taught how to take deep breaths, hold the last one, then gradually let out the air. After you let it all out, you know you’ve got 10 seconds before you have to breathe.

“We found a clear passage and were safe for a while. A third torpedo blew up in an area I was in. A guy next to me said, ‘Cal, you’re bleeding.’ I was so busy and confused, I didn’t even know. During the second wave of the Japanese attack, we heard the order to abandon ship. While the planes were still circling overhead, I jumped into the water. I remember a rescue boat threw us a line and towed us to the dock. It took all my strength to go up the ladder. Once on the dock, an officer took a look at me and said, ‘Well son you earned yourself a Purple Heart,'” Calderone continued in the recording.

He said he never felt that he really deserved the Purple Heart, according to his son, Greg Calderone.

Following Calderone’s video segments presented on the projection screen, Greg Calderone was introduced and spoke very highly about his father and what he had done during his lifetime to keep the memory of these American heroes alive.

He also talked about how he plans to introduce a portion of a Japanese warplane that his father kept that day and brought back to the states. He hopes the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum in Warren and the MAPS Museum in Canton will find a special place to display the warplane part and all of the photos and memorabilia that his father brought back from Pearl Harbor.

The evening concluded with the playing of taps.

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