Pearl Harbor Survivor, who Described the Bombing in a Diary, Dies at 97

FILE — In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, U.S. Army Private Edward Bloch, a survivor of the attack on Hickam Field, holds a wooden box given to him during the 75th Commemoration of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Hickam Field ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. (Nathan Allen/U.S. Air Force)

Edward Bloch was stationed in Hawaii and had just finished KP duty on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when he heard the roar of a plane diving over Pearl Harbor. He and his Army buddies ran outside to watch.

They saw a formation of planes dropping bombs. When the bombs hit their targets, “billows of black smoke and flames filled the air,” Bloch, then 19, wrote in a diary he kept of events before, during, and after the Japanese attack.

“Every one of us thought it was the Navy on maneuvers,” he wrote. “As soon as they pulled out of their dive, they headed for us at Hickam Field, flying at a daring low altitude, I judge at about 75 feet. And not until then would we see the insignia of the rising sun on the side of their [air]ships.”

As American GIs slept in their barracks, the Japanese bombed a hangar, rows of parked airplanes, and an armament room that “was blown to hell,” Bloch wrote. The firehouse was hit so hard the men couldn’t sound an alarm. There was no water pressure to fight the fires ignited by the explosions.

After a lull, there was a second air attack. Bloch dived under a building, as soldiers on either side of him were killed by the blasts.

“I don’t know how I was lucky enough to live through it,” Bloch wrote.

Bloch, 97, a Philadelphia native and World War II Army Air Corps veteran who later became a television engineer, died March 9, of cardiac rest at a hospital in Pembroke Pines, Florida. He had moved 20 years ago to Florida from Lahaska, Bucks County.

Bloch graduated from Olney High School in 1940. In March 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age 18. He wanted to become an airplane mechanic but instead became a high-speed radio operator. He turned 19 just days before Dec. 7.

In his diary, Bloch told of the carnage he saw that morning. As the men fled the barracks, the Japanese pilots took aim, “strafing everything in sight,” he wrote. He saw six men killed as they tried to repel the invaders with a machine gun.

“Some of the sights I saw made me sick at the stomach,” he wrote. “I couldn’t eat for almost a whole day, although I tried to.”

His most chilling memory was of seeing the enemy in their cockpits. In one case, “he could see the face of the pilot and the guy in the back, the bombardier, they looked at each other and made eye contact,” his stepdaughter, Judy Jawer, said.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bloch stayed in the South Pacific, serving as a radio operator on B-17 and B-24 bombers. He flew more than 30 missions before being honorably discharged in July 1945 with the rank of technical sergeant.

He then studied television for two years at Temple University Technical School and taught there from 1948 to 1958.

From 1948 to 1966, Mr. Bloch also worked at WFIL-TV (ABC affiliate) in Philadelphia as a technician in the master control room, as a cameraman, and performing audio/videotape management and equipment maintenance.

He worked at WCAU-TV (CBS affiliate) in Philadelphia from 1966 to 1986 as a central control supervisor, programming coordinator, and equipment maintenance man.

In 2000, he moved to Bal Harbour, Florida, where he became a security guard at the Majestic Towers, a high-rise. He continued until retiring in his early 90s.

Bloch married Philadelphia television personality Lynne Barrett in 1964. They divorced in 1998 but remained friends. An earlier first marriage that produced two daughters ended in divorce.

A music lover, Bloch enjoyed playing the trumpet and the harmonica. He also enjoyed going to schools to tell of his wartime experiences. In December 2016, he returned to Pearl Harbor for the 75th commemoration of the attack. “It was an amazing experience,” Jawer said.

Besides his stepdaughter and his former wife Lynne Bloch, he is survived by a stepson, Bruce Jawer, and five grandchildren.

Services are being delayed due to the coronavirus

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