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NEWS | Dec. 7, 2021

NNSY’s Family Ties: A USS Arizona Survivor’s Interment

By Jason Scarborough, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Eighty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy” – final respects will be paid to a former USS Arizona (BB 39) crewmember and Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Ships Superintendent.

Harvey Milhorn, a gunner’s mate serving aboard USS Arizona, survived the fireball that engulfed the ship and the attacks on Oahu, dying in 2002 at the age of 80. As one of the 335 survivors from the sinking of USS Arizona, Milhorn will be interred back on the sunken battleship on Dec. 7, the 80th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

After serving as a Ships Superintendent, Milhorn retired as an active duty lieutenant at NNSY in February 1970 after more than 30 years of naval service.

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, Milhorn and his close friend Russ Tanner finished breakfast onboard USS Arizona and went topside where they discussed plans for liberty, which was scheduled to commence at 10 a.m. At 7:55 a.m., Milhorn and Tanner heard machine gun fire in the distance and then witnessed a Japanese plane drop a torpedo into the portside of the USS Oklahoma (BB 37). Milhorn and Tanner knew the general quarters alarm would be sounding soon and immediately separated to go man their battle stations. Their breakfast and discussion of liberty plans would be the last time Milhorn would see or speak to his close friend and shipmate, who was killed during the attack.

As the attack continued, Milhorn was in one of the aft machine gun mounts on the Arizona and sent the rest of his gun crew to the forward magazine for ammunition. Suddenly there was a huge explosion and 150 tons of gun battery powder exploded killing his entire gun crew along with several others. Milhorn, having no choice but to abandon ship, swam through the flame-filled waters and took refuge with other survivors in the basement of officers’ quarters. He immediately volunteered to continue the fight the day after the bombing onboard USS Tennessee (BB 43). Milhorn would later volunteer for duty on the USS Keosauqua (AT 38), and receive a the Purple Heart medal for his injuries sustained during the attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,177 men after the Japanese aerial bomb pierced the bow of Arizona, igniting the gunpowder for the battleship’s big guns. Milhorn went on to serve another 54 months in the Pacific. 

Working his way through the enlisted ranks, Milhorn would eventually earn the highest enlisted rank of Gunner's Mate Master Chief. In May 1961, Milhorn went on to earn a commission as a naval officer and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade). In 1967, after completing a one-year tour in Vietnam, he  transferred to NNSY to complete his naval service.

NNSY has a rich history where generations of family members have worked as ONE TEAM to meet NNSY’s ONE MISSION of repairing, modernizing and inactivating our Navy’s warships and training platforms. Lieutenant Harvey Hollis Milhorn’s story of survival, service to country and his retirement at the shipyard is another example of NNSY’s rich history. The USS Arizona was modernized in NNSY’s historic Dry Dock 4 in the years prior to making her way to Pearl Harbor. Today at NNSY, Milhorn’s granddaughter, Rachel Yarasavich, works as a Quality Control Engineer for Code 221’s Quality Control Branch. Yarasavich said, “Having worked at NNSY for over 18 years has been a humbling experience. For me to work my way through the civilian Navy ranks, much like my grandfather did as a service member in the Navy, has been an honor. My grandfather was an important part of U.S. naval history that has shaped where our country is today. I am very proud of his service I will do everything I can to honor it.”

Milhorn will be the 45th person interred on the ship. With interment and full military honors planned for Dec. 7, Milhoun will again be reunited with his shipmates. The event will be livesteamed Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. EST on www.pearlharborevents.com.