LUCEDALE, Miss. (WALA) - A 92-year-old Lucedale, Miss, man tells a dramatic story of swimming underwater beneath burning fuel to escape a battleship bombed in Pearl Harbor 71 years ago Dec. 7.
A.C Hillman had just arrived at Pearl Harbor and was serving on the USS California on what started out to be a quiet Sunday.
Hillman said, "I looked out the gun port, and I saw these two airplanes. They were flying right in formation, and they dropped down, and general quarters went off. I said, 'My Lord, they're having a drill Sunday morning,' but I seen them drop them two torpedoes, and I thought, well, them things are coming right straight to us."
After a torpedo exploded below, Hillman went to the top deck.
He said, "I stayed up there until I ran out of ammunition: fifty caliber machine gun, and I ran out of ammunition, and I had a ringside seat for the rest of it."
The call came to abandon ship, but diving in the water was dangerous, too.
Hillman, said, "The water was on fire and everything, burning just like the woods afire, you know. You come up and you do your hands like this, splash the water you know, and get the fire out, catch your breath, and you can come back down and go back again."
Hillman swam to a boat headed to an island, but a crewman on the boat met him first.
According to Hillman, "He told me, he said, 'You can't get on here.' And I was trying to pull up there on that thing. He stomped my hands, and I went back in the water. I'll know that guy if I ever see him again."
Hillman finally made to the island, but not before watching the USS Arizona explode.
When asked how he made it through all this, Hillman said, "I'll tell you. Jesus Christ was with me at all times. The Lord was taking care of me. You can say what you want to and everything, but, there's somebody there looking after you. If it ain't your time to go, you ain't going."
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