Pearl Harbor survivor Rolland Briar recalls being on board the USS Whitney during the attack

Local News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) The day that will live in infamy, lives on forever in the mind of Navy Seaman 1st Class Rolland Briar.

“I feel lucky that I survived,” Briar said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Briar graduated high school and joined the Navy in 1941. After basic training, his Company 29 unit was sent to Pearl Harbor. Rolland was aboard the USS Whitney.

“It was a tender, it took care of the destroyers,” Rolland said. “I was attached to a COMDESPAC, commander destroyers. I was in the supply corps.”

Sunday, December 7th 1941 was a beautiful morning at the harbor, and a 19-year-old Rolland was about to get his day started.

“We were getting ready to go to church of Fort Island,” Rolland said. “I was standing on the deck [of the Whitney] waiting for the motor launch to come pick us up.”

That’s when disaster struck.

“We just saw the Arizona blow up, it was right in front of us,” he explained. “We could smell the smoke and [see] the explosions. We had all the destroyers tied next to us, which would’ve been a good target. In fact, we had torpedoes. If we were hit, we would’ve been blown up. We were just fearful that the [Whitney] would be bombed.”

Luckily, his ship wasn’t targeted.

“[The Japanese] were after the fighting ships,” he said. “I just feel lucky that they didn’t hit us.”

During the attack, Rolland and his crew took cover.

“We were ordered to go below deck,” he said.

Then they were ordered to help those still alive.

“We were assigned to take care of the survivors,” he said.

Roland was later released from the Navy in 1946.

Nearly 20 American naval vessels damaged including eight battleships and over 300 airplanes – and Rolland was one of the lucky ones to make it out unharmed.

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