Pearl Harbor Navy salvage diver dies at 103
By AP U.S. News | January 29, 2017
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Ken Hartle, who as a Navy diver during World War II had the grim task of retrieving bodies from ships sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, has died. He was 103.
Hartle died Tuesday afternoon at an Escondido, California, center for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, the San Diego Union-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2jnUNzC
) reported Friday. A reporter was at his bedside with Hartle's son and daughter three hours before his death.
Hartle may have been the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor salvage diver, said David Ball of San Diego, an officer with the Navy Divers Association.
Hartle and his fellow Seabees worked in the days before scuba diving equipment was commonplace. His heavy canvas diving suit and brass helmet weighed more than 200 pounds.
Japan's Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor sank or beached 18 ships. Among them was the battleship Arizona, which went down with 1,177 crew members.
Hartle was working as a civilian ship-fitter at a Navy yard in the San Francisco Bay Area when the war broke out but he wasn't allowed to enlist until 1943 because his job was deemed too important to the war effort.
Hartle was proud of the work he performed over the next two years, his children said. He risked death by towing away unexploded torpedoes and salvaging ships and planes, first at Pearl Harbor and later from Maine to the Philippines.
He suffered the bends — painful and dangerous bubbles in his bloodstream from improper decompression — and was nearly killed when an anchor chain cracked and spewed metal shards.
But he avoided mentioning one task: recovering the long-submerged bodies of sailors who went to the bottom at Pearl Harbor.
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