Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor and San Diego Hero Receives Special Honor

Ray Chaves (center).Photo: Getty Images

Ray Chavez was the oldest living survivor of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks when he died at the age of 106 in November of 2018. His legacy and heroism were honored by the U.S. Postal Service as they dedicated the Poway location at 13308 Midland Road to Ray, who was a longtime resident of the community.

The dedication was proposed by Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) and ultimately approved by former President Donald Trump on December 21, 2020.

Chaves was a southern California native, born in San Bernardino on March 10, 1912. During WWII, Ray was stationed in San Diego and assigned to a U.S. Navy minesweeper that was sent to Hawaii where his duties included sweeping the harbor in search of enemy mines.

When asked about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chaves recalled that he was home with his wife that morning after working an all-night shift. His wife saw an enemy plane while she was outside and ran into the house waking a Chaves, and screaming "We're being attacked!" He ran outside and looked at the harbor filled smoke plumes in and black skies, so he raced back to his ship to participate in battle efforts.

In an interview with The History Channel, Chaves said, "I felt terrible, to see all those ships on fire and the men struggling to keep alive in it. Tears came to my eyes because of the destruction of the ships, and more importantly, the lives that were lost. I will never forget it."

After continuing active duty throughout the war, and being honorably discharged from the position of Chief Quartermaster in 1945, Chaves returned to San Diego where he worked as a landscaper while raising his family.

During the ceremony Chavez's daughter Kathleen, who is also a Navy veteran, said "Those of you who knew my dad know he was a very modest man. I know right now, he’s looking down from heaven and telling the angels, 'I know this is a great honor, but I was just doing my job,'" Kathleen said.

The History Channel produced this segment about Ray when he 104 years old.

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