Remembering the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor brought family, friends and local officials to Grandpa’s Barbecue at Cabot on Wednesday to recognize World War II veteran Charlie Flynt of Cabot, a survivor of the attack.
"That was real nice of them to do that," Flynt said Friday. "It means a lot to me that they’d do that."
State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams presented a Senate Citation to Flynt, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin made a county proclamation recognizing Flynt, Cabot mayor Bill Cypert acted as master of ceremonies for the reception.
"I’m 90 now, but I am not slowing down, well, maybe a little, but not too much," he said Friday.
"Mostly because of my knee," Flynt said. Problems with his knee flared up in the past year, he said.
Though he originally hurt the knee in combat operations in the Leyte Gulf, he said he hesitates to call it a war injury. "My ship collided with another and it knocked me down two decks. There were a lot of ships there and it was hard not to run into each other," Flynt said.
His other injuries were limited to "little pieces of shrapnel," he said. "They’d just pull ‘em out and I’d go back to work," Flynt said.
Flynt says he still drives, "But not at night, and not in Little Rock."
In a previous interview, Flynt spoke of his memories of the Pearl Harbor attack.
"Sometimes I think about the bodies I saw floating in the water," Flynt said.
Although he remembers the attack well, Flynt said he "let it go" and does not harbor animosity toward Japan. "I knew if I did not it would eat me up," he said.
Unique to Flynt’s account is that he says he is one of the very few who actually fired on one of the mini-submarines used by the Japanese Navy in the attack, and later the ship he was on was credited with destroying another of the submarines.
Flynt said he is a Lonoke County native, one of three sons and four daughters born to Charlie Sr. and Annie Taylor Flynt.
The Flynt farm was in the Fairview area, "Down towards Brownsville," he said.
Flynt said he was 18 when he enlisted in the Navy in 1940. "I [enlisted] to help the family. It was still the Depression. My family had lost the farm. I needed to find a way to help out and the Navy seemed a good way," he said.
Flynt said he entered basic training at San Diego, finishing in November 1940. "I sailed out on the U.S.S. Cincinnati … to go to Pearl Harbor. That was in November 1940," he said.
His first ship was the U.S.S. Pruitt, a World War I destroyer converted into a minelayer, Flynt said. "All our equipment was antiques. We just did the best we could with it," he said.
In October 1941 he was reassigned to the U.S.S. Ramsay, Flynt said. "The ships were the same, both of them were converted WWI destroyers," he said.
He was aboard the Ramsay on the morning of the attack.
"I was a seaman, working as a mess cook. I worked up to deck boss and chief bosun’s mate later," Flynt said.
"We had just served the meal and I was getting ready to clean up when we started hearing explosions; then they sounded general quarters," Flynt said. "We dropped what we were doing and headed for the [top] deck. We were two decks down," he said.
That was about the time that the U.S.S. Utah was first hit, Flynt said.
"When [Utah] was hit our ship jumped up 10 feet out of the water. I thought we had been hit until I got out and saw what was going on. I saw a plane go by and saw the orange ball and I knew what it was," he said.
Besides his duties as mess cook, he had been trained on the three-inch, .23 caliber anti-aircraft guns, Flynt said. "When general quarters sounded we all went to our battle stations, [the anti-aircraft gun] was mine," he said.
Unlike many of the other ships that did not have ammunition at ready, the guns on Ramsay had some rounds at the stations, Flynt said.
According to the battle report filed by Ramsay’s commanding officer, general quarters was sounded at 0755 and the ship’s guns opened fire 10 minutes later at 0805.
Flynt said the scene was chaotic. "I was scared. I was thinking, ‘Lord, lord, I’ll never make it back to Arkansas," he said.
His younger brother, Richard, was also at Pearl Harbor and was injured, Flynt said. "He was blown off his ship. He spent two or three months in the hospital," he said.
"I shot at four or five planes. I don’t know if I hit any but I was a pretty good shot so maybe I did," Flynt said.
It was an order from the officer of the deck that drew his attention to the small submarine that had surfaced, Flynt said. "He said, ‘Submarine off the port bow, open fire.’ I got four or five shots off, but all of them missed. I don’t know why. I was a good shot," he said, shaking his head.
"[The submarine] went back down. Then the [U.S.S.] Monaghan came and did a sweep and laid about six ash cans [depth charges] around it and crushed it," Flynt said.
According to the battle report, Ramsay got underway at 8:55 a.m. and left the harbor.
Flynt said the going was difficult with the channel cluttered by ships in various stages of operation.
But worse, was seeing the casualties, Flynt said. "You could see bodies floating, I can still see them," he said.
"We went past the [U.S.S.] Nevada. They had deliberately grounded her so she would not sink in the channel and block it," Flynt said.
Once clear of Pearl Harbor, Ramsay took up station about 10 miles out to sea where it was tasked to perform submarine patrol, Flynt said. The ship was given credit for sinking one of the mini-submarines, he said.
Flynt said he served out the war, "All over the Pacific."
The Ramsay was part of a group to set up a minelayer base in the New Hebrides Islands, and then was sent to perform patrols along the Aleutian Islands.
Reassigned to the U.S.S. White Marsh, Flynt said he saw amphibious operations at Saipan, Ulithi Atoll, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa.
"We were scared, but mostly angry," Flynt recalled of the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. "But that guy was right when he said all [the Pearl Harbor attack] had done was wake up a sleeping giant."
"No. I’ve never been back [to Pearl Harbor]. Never felt like I had to go back," Flynt said.
"For me, there is no animosity against the Japanese or the Germans. It is done," Flynt said.
"I know someone who goes crazy any time you mention Japan. I tell him, ‘You got to let it go. Look at what it’s doing to you,’" Flynt said.
Flynt said he keeps a busy schedule playing the fiddle with K.K. Kennedy’s country band, and he keeps a weekly "jam sessions" at Beebe.