MADRAS — Visiting the Erickson Aircraft Collection museum Saturday brought back memories for Dick Higgins, the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor in Central Oregon.
Higgins, who turned 100 on July 24, sat in a wheelchair next to a PBY Catalina amphibious aircraft, the same plane he flew in during his service as a Navy radio operator in Pearl Harbor when Japan attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
People lined up to speak with Higgins and ask about his experience in the amphibious aircraft.
Higgins pointed to a window on the right side of the plane, directly next to the propeller.
That’s where he sat during each mission.
“That’s why I’m wearing these,” Higgins said, pointing to his hearing aids.
When asked how loud the propellers were, Higgins laughed and said, “too loud.”
Dick Tobiason, chairman of the Bend Heroes Foundation, coordinated with Higgins’ family to bring him to the aircraft museum. The day was an extension of his 100th birthday celebration.
Tobiason brought historic photos of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photos showed where Higgins was stationed on Ford Island and the type of work he did that day to clear debris from the Navy airfield.
Higgins woke up that morning to Japanese planes flying over his barracks. Nearly 80 years later, he still remembers being being covered in ash and oil as he cleared the wreckage and salvaged planes for flight.
“I think he’s proud of keeping history alive,” Tobiason said.