Ervin Schmidt said they were just a couple good Christian boys on the way to church when the “Battle Stations” call went out. Schmidt and his friend, USS California shipmate Herbert Curtis, ran to the ship. It was Dec. 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor was under attack.
The California was hit by a torpedo and was on fire. The fumes overcame Schmidt and other sailors on the bridge. He passed out and would have perished if it hadn’t been for when the “abandon ship” call was made, sailors grabbed their unconscious shipmates and dragged them on deck.
When Schmidt woke up, he found three sailors that had failed to abandon ship because they couldn’t swim. Taking command, Schmidt led them up to his secondary battle station. They climbed up a ladder inside the ship in the pitch black with 100 pound ammo boxes. When they reached the deck, they fired at the last of the leaving Japanese Zeros.
Curtis had been killed instantly when the torpedo hit and Schmidt never saw those three sailors again. Midway through the war, Schmidt switched to the submarine corps. The sub he was on sank the last Japanese ships of WWII. Schmidt has the distinct honor of being involved in the first and last Pacific naval battles of WWII.
Now a member of the Edmonds VFW Chapter 8870, he can be found passing out poppies before memorial Day and Veterans Day. He calls all vets “comrade” and fellow sailors “shipmate” and is a beloved member of the chapter.