The Navy radio man who sent out the first alerts regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor has died, according to a report on the Navy Times.
Ed Chlapowski was born in Webster, Massachusetts, on June 5, 1922. He was working an early watch at the submarine base when the attacks started; since he knew that the radio room was short-staffed on Sundays, he came in and was handed a message by a supervisor. He then sent out news that Pearl Harbor was under attack, in Morse code.
Chlapowski recounted his memories during a commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor at the Downtown Billings Rotary Club in 2009. He said: “The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just as it still does today when I think about it.” He shared how he saw smoke rise after the battleship Arizona received her first hit, and witnessed a bomb strike the Arizona’s starboard side. That hit exploded the ammunition magazine of the battleship.
Chlapowski recalled: “The first thing I saw afterward was the ship was gone where the No. 1 and 2 turrets had been.”
Chlapowski was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, and in an interview in 2007, he shared that it was his responsibility to report the deaths of Pearl Harbor survivors to the organization, in order to ensure that plaques were presented to the families they left behind. He spent five years in the Navy, and went on to become an air traffic controller after he was discharged. He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for 34 years, retiring in 1975.
Ed Chlapowski died in his home in Billings, Montana, Sunday, mere weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.