Tuesday, April 01, 2014

TOP STORY >> Pearl Harbor survivor dies

Leader staff writer

One of the last known Pearl Harbor survivors in Lonoke County, 91-year-old Charles Flynt Jr. of Cabot, passed away on Friday. Flynt was the grand marshal for the Cabot Christmas Parade in 2013 and the guest of honor for the Christmas in Cabot tree lighting in 2012.

Funeral services were held Monday at Cabot Funeral Home with Pastor Robbie Flynt. Burial was in Oak Grove Cemetery.

He was born on July 5, 1922, in the Smyrna-Fairview community off Hwy. 236 in Lonoke County. Flynt attended the Fairview community school. He voluntarily joined the Navy before finishing high school in September 1940.

During the Second World War, Flynt was a Boatswain Mate First Class on the mine layer USS Ramsey during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

On that fateful morning, Flynt, then 19, was a deck boss in charge of 200 sailors on the ship. The Ramsay had been at Pearl Harbor for 13 months. They had practiced gunnery 400 miles off the coast.

“We were sitting across the channel from the Utah, in Pearl City, the northwest part of Pearl Harbor. They came in there and dumped two to three torpedoes and hit the Utah. When I heard them, I thought our ship was hit. It seemed liked we jumped 10 feet out of the water — Whoomp. The vibration was great. Something was going on here. I got the cobwebs out of my brain. I glimpsed up and saw a plane with an orange ball. I knew it was the Japanese,” Flynt recalled in an interview with The Leader in November 2012.

Flynt said the officer on deck rang up several quarters and they ran for the guns.

“I got off six to eight rounds really quick before they told me to swing around and fire at the submarine,” Flynt said.

He said the Japanese planes came in from all angles; it was hard to tell if they hit any. Flynt said they were very fortunate, with only a few injuries.

The Japanese brought in small two-man submarines, one in the harbor and four outside the harbor.

Flynt’s ship got credit for sinking one of the subs. They spent the next two weeks on patrol, looking for subs 25 miles out from Pearl Harbor.

The Ramsay later went to Australia laying mines in the Japanese shipping lanes. Then the crew was ordered to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska to patrol the area for a year against the Japanese.

The Ramsay returned to the U.S. mainland only once during the war, for 20 days in October 1943, when the crew and ship stopped in San Francisco.

Flynt returned to the seas on a different ship, transferring to landing ship USS White Marsh. The White Marsh delivered Marine divisions to battle Japanese soldiers at Saipan and then to the Palau Islands.

The ship continued to move troops and equipment during the war to New Guinea and the Philippines.

Flynt said the last big operation was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, in Okinawa, Japan. They stayed there three month, enduring kamikazes attacks each day.

When the war ended, the White Marsh sailed to Norfolk, Va., for decommissioning in 1946. Flynt was sent home in September, taking a bus back to Lonoke. He was discharged in November 1946 from the Navy after serving six years.

He returned to Lonoke County and went to night school in 1947 at Little Rock Central High School for GIs who didn’t finish school. There he earned a general-educational development diploma.

After the war, Flynt worked in home construction. He finished sheetrock, painted interiors and installed acoustic ceilings until retiring in the 1990s.

He was an avid musician who played the fiddle, guitar and mandolin. He enjoyed playing in nursing homes and senior centers with Kern Kennedy and the Kampground Express, Hazel Sheets’ Famous Four and More, Young at Heart and the Hank Thrasher Band.

He attended Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

Flynt was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Flynt, Sr. and Annie Flynt, and five siblings, James Flynt, Richard Flynt, Juanita Brown, Gladys Cates and Anna McGinley.

He is survived by his wife, Eula Flynt of Cabot, former owner of Brown’s Dairy Bar; sister, Sue Allen; nephew, pastor Robbie Flynt and his wife, Sherri, and their children Seth Flynt and Kerri Stack, all of Little Rock.