LOS ANGELES — Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. navy survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, assault on Pearl Harbor that plunged the USA into World Struggle II, died Wednesday. He was 106.

Chavez, who had been battling pneumonia, died in his sleep within the San Diego suburb of Poway, his daughter, Kathleen Chavez, advised The Related Press.

As not too long ago as final Could he had traveled to Washington, D.C., the place he was honored on Memorial Day by President Donald Trump. The White Home Tweeted a press release Wednesday saying it was saddened to listen to of his passing.

“We have been honored to host him on the White Home earlier this yr,” the assertion mentioned. “Thanks on your service to our nice nation, Ray!”

Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the Nationwide Park Service at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, confirmed Wednesday that Chavez was the oldest survivor of the assault that killed 2,335 U.S. navy personnel and 68 civilians.

“I nonetheless really feel a loss,” Chavez mentioned throughout 2016 ceremonies marking the assault’s 75th anniversary. “We have been all collectively. We have been associates and brothers. I really feel near all of them.”

Hours earlier than the assault, he was aboard the minesweeper USS Condor because it patrolled the harbor’s east entrance when he and others noticed the periscope of a Japanese submarine. They notified a destroyer that sunk it shortly earlier than Japanese bombers arrived to strafe the harbor.

By then Chavez, who had labored via the early morning hours, had gone to his close by house to sleep, ordering his spouse to not wake him as a result of he had been up all night time.

“It appeared like I solely slept about 10 minutes when she referred to as me and mentioned, ‘We’re being attacked,’ ” he recalled in 2016. “And I mentioned, ‘Who’s going to assault us?’ ”

“She mentioned, ‘The Japanese are right here, and so they’re attacking every thing.’ ”

He ran again to the harbor to search out it in flames.

Chavez would spend the subsequent week there, working across the clock sifting via the destruction that had crippled the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet.

Later he was assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks and different gear to war-torn islands throughout the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.

Though by no means wounded, he left the navy in 1945 affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction that left him anxious and shaking.

Returning to San Diego, the place he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outside, a nutritious diet and a strict exercise program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his well being.

“He cherished timber and he dearly cherished crops and he knew every thing a couple of plant or tree that you might probably need to know,” his daughter mentioned Wednesday with a chuckle. “And he lastly retired when he was 95.”

Nonetheless, he wouldn’t discuss Pearl Harbor for many years. Then, on a last-minute whim, he determined to return to Hawaii in 1991 for ceremonies marking the assault’s 50th anniversary.

“Then we did the 55th, the 60th, the 65th and the 70th, and from then on we went to each one,” his daughter recalled, including that till Chavez’s well being started to fail he had deliberate to attend this yr’s gathering subsequent month.

Born March 12, 1912, in San Bernardino, California, to Mexican immigrant dad and mom, Chavez moved to San Diego as a toddler, the place his household ran a wholesale flower enterprise. He joined the Navy in 1938.

In his later years, as he grew to become nicely generally known as the assault’s oldest navy survivor, he’d be approached at memorial providers and different occasions and requested for his autograph or to pose for footage. He all the time maintained that these occasions weren’t about him, nevertheless, however about those that gave their lives.

“He’d simply shrug his shoulders and shake his head and say, ‘I used to be simply doing my job,’ ” mentioned his daughter. “He was only a very good, quiet man. He by no means hollered about something, and he was all the time nice to everyone.”

Chavez was preceded in dying by his spouse, Margaret. His daughter is his solely survivor.

Funeral providers are pending.

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