, 2015

Everybody has a story
Irvington resident was
youngest Pearl Harbor survivor

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

In most publications and during most speeches about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Katya Shoemaker Spicuzza is simply referred to as “the baby.”

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From left, hula dancer Leilani Wakinekona greets Katya Spicuzza at a survivors’ reunion.

“My brothers speak somewhere every December because they can remember. Not me, I was just a baby. That’s what they call me in this, the baby,” she said, holding up a book about the children of Battleship Row.

Spicuzza, who now lives in Irvington with her husband, William, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, was only 7 months old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She and her family lived on Ford Island’s Battleship Row, across the harbor from where the battleship Arizona was attacked. Spicuzza’s father was the commander of the Naval Air Station.

Born on Mother’s Day in 1941, she was an infant when the Japanese bombers struck and her claim to fame is being the youngest survivor of Pearl Harbor.

“Of course I don’t remember a thing,” said the vivacious 72-year-old.

She was told she was carried from their home several blocks away to a shelter by a soldier. All the families on Ford Island were taken to the safety of dungeons and during the next few weeks, all left the island for the mainland. Most never spoke or saw each other again until recently when they were reunited in Virginia Beach on February 28.

“These people hadn’t seen each other in 72 years,” said Spicuzza. “It was wonderful.”

Following the invasion, Spicuzza’s family went to Honolulu for three months then eventually ended up in Vietnam after her father was appointed to a special post by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. So she didn’t really know any of the children on Battleship Row. Nonetheless, just hearing the stories and the sharing of memories at the reunion made the event special.

The reunion happened because last year Katrina Luksovsky decided she wanted to find out who lived in her house on Ford Island during the attack. Many of the child survivors now live in Virginia, which is why she chose Virginia Beach for the reunion.

Spicuzza showed off an orchid lei, imported from Hawaii, that was presented to each guest. She also received an aerial map of Ford Island in 1941. She’ll add the map and the dried orchids to her collection of memorabilia, which includes a 50th anniversary medal she was presented in 1991 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. She is one of about 22 remaining survivors of Ford Island and will be part of the book Luksovsky is planning to write.

Spicuzza plans to return to Hawaii’s Ford Island in February 2015.

She’ll visit Battleship Row and look for the plaque and picture of her, her brothers and dad that will be placed at the home where she lived for just seven months. She is “the baby” in the family photo.

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