William Monfort is 96 years old and a World War II veteran, one of few left. After all this time, the vet from Tampa, by way of Georgia, remembers a lot.
"I enlisted in the Navy on November 19th, 1935," said Monfort. "I was one month being 19 years old."
This Veterans Day, Monfort reflects back to war time on the U.S.S. Claxton.
"I was stationed on a destroyer at Pearl Harbor when they bombed Pearl Harbor. However, I was two days at sea," he said.
Monfort's church has his priceless pictures and medals on display. He was the ship's chief radio man, coding and decoding messages. Monfort was the first on the destroyer to hear about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"I was on the radio circuit. The message came on," said Monfort. "It says 'air raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill.'"
Monfort's destroyer was the first one to get hit by kamikaze attack, or Japanese pilots on suicide missions. It left a gaping hole in the U.S.S. Claxton. Monfort was untouched.
"No, I wasn't hurt. I wasn't hurt at all during the war," he said.
Monfort has reunions with members of Destroyer Squadron 23 every year. The group gets smaller with each passing Veterans Day.
Soon, Monfort will be 97.
"I tell people I won't be 97 years old. I'll be 97 years young," he said.
After the Navy, Monfort went to school on the G.I. Bill and later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration.
He has three children and six grandchildren.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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