After surviving Pearl Harbor and now age 91, Richard Thill receives the ovation 73 years later for him and his comrades who aren’t there to hear it. On this solemn anniversary, Thill was the special honoree last Sunday, Dec 7th. He was introduced with a video tribute before standing at the east end zone, waving to a crowd of 52,152 fans all chanting in unison “USA! USA!” When later interviewed about it, Thill described the experience as, “Outstanding to say the least.”
Thill was the guest of honor earlier that Sunday at a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony. It was hosted by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Memorial Rifle Squad. After the ceremony, Thill said, “If I talk about it, I’ll cry. I pray for those who were lost; I still do.”
Thill was 17 when he joined the Naval Reserve in January 1941, earning $21 per month. He was a communications officer on the destroyer USS Ward, which was patrolling the front of the harbor the morning of the attack. His ship sank a Japanese mini-submarine before the air raid began. The coordinated attack that day killed almost 2,400 Americans and drew the United States into World War II.
Today, Thill travels and speaks to students, elementary to high school, about his experiences on that day to any willing to listen.