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Veteran recalls Pearl Harbor Day on its 71st anniversary

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

CAROLINA SHORES—Art Paige clearly remembers Dec. 7, 1941.

It was his first day on the job as a Marine recruit returning to base at Camp Lejeune. Then the announcement came over the radio.

The Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor, launching World War II.

“As soon as I got [to the base], I was given live ammunition and told to stand guard on the beach,” recalled the 90-year-old, seated in his home last week in his Marine uniform that still fits.

All he could see, he said, were “burning vessels in the Gulf Stream,” the result of torpedo attacks on domestic ships by German U-boats.

“So that was my first day,” Paige said, laughing.

The Waterbury, Conn., native left home at 18 to join the Marines at Parris Island. His three brothers were in the National Guard, two posted in Europe and the other sent to the Pacific.

All brothers survived World War II.

Today, “I’m the only one left,” Paige said, referring to the seven children in his family.

He served in the Marines for 20 years.

“When I came back from the Pacific, I was fortunate enough to go to school, and I learned how to build telephone exchanges,” Paige recalled.

Then the Korean War broke out, and he was sent to Korea for 14 months.

He retired from the service in 1960 and went to work for the Army as a civilian signal officer, first at Rock Island, Ill., then Alexandria, Va., where Paige lived for 14 years.

Paige devoted 20 years each to the Marines and the Army, “and that was enough,” he said. “I’d’ve never retired if it wasn’t for the stinkin’ traffic of Washington.”

In his early days living in a D.C. suburb, Paige said he could drive to Washington in 12 minutes. Now, he said, you’re lucky if you make it through traffic in two hours.

Just recently, Paige was recognized at Calabash VFW Post 7288 at the Marine Corps’ 237th birthday party during Veterans Day weekend.

The Post celebrated by having its “oldest” Marine—Paige—present a piece of birthday cake to the youngest Marine in attendance—60-year-old John Ritto.

“There are a couple a year or two older than I am,” Paige said, adding he’s just one of the most prominent ones because he’s frequently at the Post.

Paige, who turns 91 next April, attributes his longevity to having “good wives.” He lost his first two, and has been married for the past seven years to his third wife, Brenda, who he says does a good job looking out for him. He has two daughters and a son living Virginia and Massachusetts.

At one time, Paige said he was a good golfer. But he has back issues now.

“Age catches up with you, and there’s not much you can do about it,” said Paige, who gets around with a walker these days.

“Mentally, I don’t have any problem, but the other parts are wearing out,” Paige said.

As for current wars, Paige believes the U.S. government has failed when it comes to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’re sent to war, but we’re not allowed to kill,” he said. “It’s just terrible. You go to fight eeny, meeny, miny, moe. I don’t buy it.”

 

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.