Monday, February 19, 2018

Pearl Harbor Survivor Melvin Heckman Dies in Wyoming

From the February 13, 2018, Sheridan (Wtoming) Press  "Heckman leaves a lasting legacy in Sheridan" by Michael Illiano.

Melvin Heckman died last week at age 94.  He was 17 and based at Ford Island as an aviation machinist serving on the firefighter staff when the attack came. While he and others were rushing to a firetruck, a bomb landed 20 feet away, and he received shrapnel in his back but continued fighting, later receiving a Purple Heart for it.

After the attack, he was transferred to Palmyra, an atoll a thousand miles south of Pearl Harbor.  One day while there, he was assigned to escort a group of Naval officers around that island.  He got into a talk with one and said he would really like to be a pilot.  A moth later, he was transferred to Naval Flight School at Pensacola, Florida.

The officer he had been talking to turned out to be Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

At Pensacola, he completed Officer Candidate School and after more training, became a pilot, but by then the war had ended.

In later years, he was the chairman of the Wyoming Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.


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