Pearl Harbor survivor ashes interred at battleship

December 24, 2011 - 11:50 AM
Pearl Harbor Survivor

U.S. Marines stand at attention as the family of Pfc. Frank R. Cabiness arrives at a ceremony to have his ashes interred inside the USS Arizona, Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 in Honolulu. Cabiness, who was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked, 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. Cabiness, who died in 2002, is the second Marine to be interred within the USS Arizona. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A Marine who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor has returned to the USS Arizona — divers placed the urn holding Frank Cabiness' cremated remains inside the battleship sunk by the Japanese 70 years ago.

"He said it was because that's where he belonged," the late Marine's son, Jerry Cabiness, said after Friday's solemn ceremony. "He lost all of his friends there and he wanted to be with them."

The divers swam over to the sunken battleship and placed the container inside.

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

Jerry Cabiness said his father always wanted to return to his ship, but his family took some time to fulfill that wish because of some financial problems and the expense of traveling to Hawaii.

"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 said his father jumped into the water and wasn't blown from the deck, which had been reported earlier from a Marine news release.

The family proudly retains the only thing 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 from the Arizona.

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 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.