WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One of the last known Pearl Harbor survivors in southeastern North Carolina has passed away.
William “Bill” Hendley, a longtime resident of Wilmington, died on April 28 at the age of 99.
Hendley was just 17 years old and serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was critically damaged and eventually capsized during the Japanese assault on the Hawaiian naval base on Dec. 7, 1941.
During a 2015 interview, Hendley said he and several other men were taking a shower when five or six torpedoes struck the port side of the ship. Hendley said his chief petty officer pushed him and eight other men out of the shower, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get out.
“He had a big belly,” Hendley recalled during the interview. “One guy said the last thing he saw was him saying his prayers because he knew he wouldn’t get out.”
Three Wilmington sailors were among the 2,403 Americans killed in the attack which led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II.
Hendley’s funeral will take place Saturday, May 4.
Since Wilmington’s last Pearl Harbor anniversary commemoration in 2018, survivor and Navy officer Harold Garrish died in December at 100.
The only known Pearl Harbor survivor in southeastern North Carolina is Signalman Bud Hollenbeck, of Wilmington, who served on the battleship USS Pennsylvania.