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Houma man remembers surviving Pearl Harbor

Houma, La -- Saturday marks the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As the nation remembers the day, so too does a Houma man who witnessed it all from the deck of a ship in the Hawaii harbor.

James Womack says he'll never forget the things he witnessed on December 7, 1941. "When they would sink the ships, the oil would come to the top, it would catch fire and some of them would be trying to swim in that," Womack remembered.

Womack was a chief petty officer aboard the U.S.S. St. Louis at the time. The ship was getting repaired at the Navy yard in the harbor, but still had it's crew on board. Womack was in bed that fateful morning, when he realized something was wrong. "It was the airplane motors that I heard and soon after that, I heard the bombs start going off," Womack explained.

After running to the deck, Womack came eye to eye with a Japanese bomber pilot. "He got down still lower before he released the torpedo and I could see the wake of it as it hit the water and took off for the battleships," Womack said.

Womack and his crew members aboard the U.S.S. St. Louis were able to safely leave the harbor, but more than 2,400 American troops died that day.

Ceremonies across the country commemorated the date, including at the World War II memorial on the National Mall and at the Arizona memorial visitor center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At that event, Admiral Harry Harris of the United States Navy said, "While our nation was surprised that morning, the military and the first responders here in the islands mustered an incredibly brave defense and engaged the enemy best they could and with what they had."

James Womack says he's incredibly proud of the men who lost their lives 72 years ago and proud to have served his country, despite the images that are burned into his memory, all these years later.

Events also took place a little closer to home Saturday, including at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and aboard the U.S.S. Kidd in Baton Rouge.

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