SPRINGFIELD — To most of us, the mention of Pearl Harbor is little more than a page from the history books … a day to be remembered with respect and reverence.
To Fairborn resident Rolla “Ed” Malan, Pearl Harbor is a life event that he has carried with him for most of his 96 years.
Malan belongs to an elite fraternity. It is not a fraternity that he chose but one he joined due to circumstance … fate. He is a Pearl Harbor survivor, an ever-shrinking group of men and women who were “aboard” Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941.
Now, 75 years later, Malan carries his survivor status proudly, as with most other veterans, honoring those who did not survive.
Ed is still active and recently attended the annual Honor Flight Dayton reunion at the Clark County Fairgrounds. He took a few minutes to share a bit of his experience on that “Day of Infamy.”
Malan, then just 21 years old, was attached to the USS Preble, a mine-laying vessel that was in dry dock for repairs. With their ship temporarily out of action, Malan and his shipmates were assigned to barracks on shore.
The former Petty Officer recalls being awakened by the “banging banging” of airplanes, then explosions. One of his shipmates went to a window and reported Japanese planes dropping bombs. No one believed him … initially.
With no ship to report to, Malan recalls heading up to the roof of the barracks to see what was going on. The explosions, including the massive explosion that sank the USS Arizona, and a close call with a strafing Japanese Zero made Malan decide that seeking cover indoors was a good idea.
He “rode out” the remainder of the attack from inside the barracks.
In September, Malan, who is retired from the United States Postal Service, made a trip back to Pearl Harbor with his friend and art instructor Terri Lynn Perkins, and a nurse. Perkins owns an art studio in Fairborn and has become a close friend of Malan.
The trio visited Pearl Harbor, including the USS Arizona Memorial and the US Navy’s newest USS Preble (DDG88), a guided-missile destroyer.
Although long-retired, Malan stays busy. He takes art classes at Perkins’ studio and spends a lot of time there.
Malan is popular at veterans’ events, not only because of is status as survivor of the “Day of Infamy,” but because his smile and personality that attracts people to come up and chat.
As we spend our Dec. 7, remembering this 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ed is also remembering … 2,343 lives lost that day. Five battleships and 13 other ships sunk. And, he was there.