Navy veteran Joseph E. Honish, one of the last local survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack that launched the United States into World War II, will be remembered Thursday at a funeral Mass.
Honish, of Henderson, died Jan. 16 of complications from heart failure, his wife, Josephine Honish, said Monday. He was 93.
“I will remember him with love,” said Josephine, his wife of 44 years.
“He was a very proud, patriotic man,” she said, adding, “Joe was not the type that went out and blew his own horn.”
In a 2011 interview with the Review-Journal for the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Honish recalled how he had taken a shuttle bus from the Naval Shipyard’s hospital in Oahu, Hawaii, where he worked as a pharmacist mate third class, to the Block Recreation Center.
The 21-year-old sailor from Hoisington, Kan., was standing in line with other sailors and civilians who were waiting to go to Sunday morning Mass as soon as the center’s doors opened on Dec. 7, 1941.
But he never made it to Mass. Instead, he spent the next few hours saving a woman’s life and tending to hundreds of dead and wounded outside the shipyard’s naval hospital.
“We were there at quarter of eight when they flew right over us,” Honish said, describing the sight of Japanese “Kate” torpedo bombers.
“I thought, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
As the planes began their assault on Battleship Row, the rear-facing gunners inside the Japanese torpedo planes were firing swivel-mounted machine guns to pin down anyone who might try to thwart the attack.
“Well, they hit this lady who was coming over to get in line with us. They hit her and took a big chunk out of her leg,” Honish said.
Honish and a shipmate used the woman’s petticoat to make a tourniquet for her leg. They then commandeered a car and rushed her to the hospital, where she was treated and survived.
Honish was born Sept. 2, 1920 in Los Angeles. He made a career of the Navy, serving in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was awarded a combat valor medal by a Marine Corps general in 1953. He retired in 1968 as a Navy commander.
Three local Pearl Harbor survivors died last year: Jack Leaming, Clifton Dohrmann and William Simshauser. Only a few Pearl Harbor survivors remain in the Las Vegas Valley, according to one of them, Ed Hall, who was an 18-year-old Army private at Hickam Field during the attack.
Honish is survived by his wife, Josephine; daughter, Judith Price; three grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and two sisters.
A Mass will be held for him 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 130 N. Pecos Road in Henderson, followed by a funeral service at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.
The family prefers donations be made to any veterans charity.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Follow him on Twitter @KeithRogers2.