Pearl Harbor Survivor Ashes Interred At Battleship

Salon Staff
December 24, 2011 10:18AM (UTC)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A Marine who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has returned to the USS Arizona for eternity.

Divers took an urn holding the cremated remains of Frank Cabiness from the late Marine's family, swam over to the sunken battleship, and placed the container inside during a solemn ceremony on Friday.


Hawaii-based Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment performed a rifle salute and taps during the solemn ceremony some nine years after Cabiness died in Lewisville, Texas, at the age of 86.

His son, Jerry Cabiness, said his father always wanted to return to his ship.

"He said it was because that's where he belonged. Because he lost all of his friends there and he wanted to be with them," Jerry Cabiness said after the service.

The family took some time to fulfill his father's wishes because they had some financial problems and it's expensive to travel to Hawaii, he said.

"But we finally got it done. And it was a beautiful ceremony. The Marines did him proud," he said.

Dozens of Arizona crew members who lived through the Dec. 7, 1941, attack have chosen to have their ashes interred on the battleship after death. Many do it out of a desire to join those they left behind.


Survivors who served on the USS Utah — the only other ship sunk in the attack that still sits in the harbor — have done the same.

Servicemen who served on other ships and on land may have their ashes scattered in the harbor if they choose. Most of the dozen U.S. ships that sank or were beached 70 years ago were repaired and returned to service.


Altogether, 2,390 Americans were killed in the attack that brought the United States into World War II.

The Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines — more than any ship or unit. Most of those who died are still entombed on the vessel, which rests next to Ford Island where it sank nine minutes after being hit by a Japanese aerial bomb.

Cabiness, who was a private first class when Japanese planes bombed the Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, was among the 337 crew members who survived.


Jerry Cabiness said his father was at his battle station in the main mast of the ship when the ship was hit. He narrowly avoided getting hit by machine gun fire, and luckily his only injury was from friction burns suffered when he slid down a ladder while rushing to abandon ship.

He wasn't blown from the decks, as earlier reports said.

After the war, he worked for an oil pipeline company in Texas that later became Amoco Pipeline. He measured and documented oil that traveled through a pipeline to a refinery. He never missed a day of work in 30 years, Jerry Cabiness said.


He didn't mention the attack much.

"It was just too hard for him. He just couldn't do it," his son said.

The family, however, still has the only material possession he managed to leave the ship with: a watch that stopped at 8:15, the moment that Sunday morning when he hit the water after jumping off the Arizona.

The Cabinesses moved around a lot, but lived the longest in Levelland, Texas.


Today, Jerry Cabiness and his family live in Maumelle, Ark., a suburb of Little Rock.

Salon Staff

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