Staten Island Pearl Harbor Survivor Visits Fleet Week
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (NNS) — The last known Staten Island resident survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack visited Fleet Week New York 2012 at the The Sullivans Pier, May 27.
Former Chief Boatswain’s Mate Alf Kongslie and three generations of his family visited Fleet Week and were treated to a tour of the pier and USS San Jacinto (CG-56) as a small token of their gratitude for his service.
Seventy-one years ago, Kongslie was a crewmember aboard USS Saint Louis (CL-49) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Kongslie thought his Sunday routine began like any other.
“I saw guys going across the harbor in a liberty boat,” Kongslie, 91, said. “I figured they were going to church. Then I saw them jumping off into the water. I didn’t know what was going on.”
What happened was the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet that would pull the United States in to World War II. During the confusion of the attack, he did his best to remain calm and perform his duties during the emergency.
“I kept trying to climb my way up ladders to get to my battle station, but guys kept knocking me off coming down the other way,” he said. “I finally got to my station and got to work.”
After the attack, Kongslie continued serving in the Navy until 1947.
“We were honored to have Mr. Kongslie and his family here today,” said Navy Lt. Jared Jalbert, Fleet Week Staten Island officer in charge. “It was a great experience to show our appreciation to such a distinguished veteran.”
Cmdr. Rick Potter, executive officer of San Jacinto, met Kongslie and his family to personally present the World War II veteran a San Jacinto command ball cap and challenge coin before bonging him aboard the ship.
“I never thought I’d ever see a boatswain chief bonged aboard a ship ,” Kongslie said with tears in his eyes.
During the ship’s tour, crewmembers and civilians alike constantly approached Kongslie to shake his hand and thank him.
“It’s a real honor to meet you, sir,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (AW) Jennifer Thomas. “I just wanted to say thank you for your service.”
“I’m thankful for yours,” Kongslie humbly replied before adding with a grin, “Where were gals like you in the fleet 70 years ago?”
Kongslie, who has spoken to students about his experiences as a Pearl Harbor survivor for years, maintains that his efforts are not extraordinary.
“I consider myself an ambassador to all Pearl Harbor survivors to make sure no one ever forgets,” Kongslie said. “When we talk to the schools, we tell them we’re not heroes. We’re there for the heroes.”
Kongslie said that he was so happy he was able to come out to Fleet Week and meet those who continue to serve after him.
“I’m very proud of today’s service members,” he said. “And they should be proud, too. They have never had more to be proud about than being a service member today.”
As Kongslie was escorted down the gangplank by San Jacinto Sailors, a crowd of about 25 people gathered at the foot of the stairs. As one last honor before he left the pier, the visitors to Fleet Week Staten Island saluted Kongslie’s visit and service with a round of applause.
Held nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city’s celebration of sea services. Fleet Week New York provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, first-hand, the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. More than 6,000 service men and women from the U.S. and coalition nations are participating.
This year, Fleet Week New York is one of the signature events around the country commemorating OpSail 2012, the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the Star-Spangled Banner. The Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is a salute to all Sailors and Marines who fought gallantly in that conflict, who served in all our nation’s conflicts since then, and who are defending freedom around the world.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk, visit www.navy.mil/local/pacennorfolk/.
Article source: http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=67448
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