News 9 Flashback: 2005 Tribute To U.S. Navy Veteran Lewis Swindl - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

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News 9 Flashback: 2005 Tribute To U.S. Navy Veteran Lewis Swindler

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December 7, 1941. The day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They day America was forced into World War II, and the darkest day for the United States Navy.

But the attack didn’t stop US naval fleets from playing key roles in World War II.

The World War II memorial in Washington D.C. stands as a tribute to the men and women who served in the greatest war, fought by the greatest generation.

Almost as soon as he heard the news about the bombing of Peral Harbor, Lewis Swindler, a teenager from Delaware County, Oklahoma enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

“It was such a dastardly act. Everybody, I mean everybody was wanting in,” said Swindler. “I was upset at the Japs. And I just wanted to, you know, whatever I could do to them, I wanted to do to them.”

During World War II, Lewis Swindler sailed the south Pacific on the U.S.S. Saratoga. During his time on the air craft carrier he and his shipmates took part in a special assignment, being detached to the far-eastern fleet, and raiding Japanese oil reserves.

“We get out there and the captain gets on the microphone and says our destination is Tokyo Japan. I hadn’t dreamed about going. I didn’t even want to go to Tokyo,” said Swindler.

The Saratoga’s crew safely made it through the mission and prepared to aid in D-day at Iwo Jima.

“The thing that I can remember, and we were at Ulithi. And they say it was the greatest armada that was ever, of ships, that was ever assembled. As far as you could see it was ships. Just carriers, every kind of ship,” said Swindler.

He continued, “At Iwo Jima we were close enough we could see, we could see the shells and everything going off on the beaches of Iwo Jima. And it was bad, bad bad bad.

As the marines were fighting the Japanese on the small island, the naval crew on the Saratoga faced a now legendary foe. The Kamakazi.

“It was about I think 60 miles out when the radar picked up bogies,” said Swindler. “And they kept  closing and closing and they were, of course, planes close pretty fast. And they sounded general quarters and by the time we got to our battle station. They were coming, and we were shooting a lot of them down. I believe it was 9 of them that his us.”

Slamming into the Saratoga, the suicide pilots blew a hole in the flight deck and flames spread across the carrier.

“I could peep out. And every once in a while, the guy would open the hatch on the mount and all you could see was just fire. And I knew that was all the wrote,” said Swindler.

“We finally we got some of the fire out and one of the planes that landed he said oh, hell, I’m glad I’m not on the Saratoga, she’s burning from stem to stern. And whoever the landing officer was said where do you think you’re at? And I forgot now what carrier he thought he was on, he said you’re on the Saratoga. He said can I start this damn thing and fly off?” said Swindler.

More than 120 men died in the attack.

“They didn’t keep you. If you got it well you just, you were buried,” Swindler continued, “and they’d taps and salute and then they’d lift it and down they’d go into the ocean.”

“That’s the thing that kind of haunts me. I can still see it, as we’re going, the others were going opposite directions,” said Swindler.

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