Area’s last Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 91

March 26, 2013
Remembering Pearl Harbor

Leo Petrosky. Photo by Alway Photography.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Leo Petrosky of Ludington, MasonCounty’s last Pearl Harbor attack survivor, passed away on March 16. He was 91-years-old. A few years ago I had the honor of meeting Mr. Petrosky and writing a story about him. Leo was living in an adult foster care home at the time and had been recovering from a stroke, which affected his memory.

Leo was one of the remaining 8,000 Pearl Harbor survivors; 84,000 uniformed Americans were on Oahu the day of the attack. During the Pearl Harbor attack, more than 2,400 Americans were killed and eight battleships were damaged, five of which sank.

Leo, left, front, with some shipmates.

Leo, left, front, with some shipmates.

Leo was born in Helvetia, Pa. In 1940, on his 18th birthday, he joined the Navy and was eventually assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, the flagship of the U.S. Fleet. He was an aviation mechanic who worked on the recognizance planes on the ship. Because the Pennsylvania was damaged during a storm in November of 1941 and was in dry dock in Pearl Harbor, Petrosky was assigned to a PBY Catalina airplane crew on FordIsland, located in the middle of the harbor.

A PBY was a plane that could land in the water. During World War II the planes were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions and cargo transport.

“Our squadron was housed on the second floor and we were overlooking the USS Arizona,” Leo said in an article. “I heard ruckus, so I looked out the window and saw the first bomb hit the Arizona.

It was Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. The Empire of Japan launched a surprise air attack on the United States naval base Pearl Harbor, located a few miles from Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

The event was the climax of years of escalated tensions between the U.S. and the Axis Powers: Germany, Italy and Japan. Later that day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan. Four days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S.

“There was no doubt in my mind that this was war,” Leo said.

Leo later served in the battles for Midway, Guadalcanal and Bougainville.

Leo in the Navy

Leo in the Navy

Leo left the Navy in 1949 and later bought property on the ManisteeRiver. He spent most of the rest of his life working for Rockwell Collins International, an aerospace and defense company. He also spent a few years being a pilot for the notorious union boss Jimmy Hoffa.