MEL’S JOURNEY BACK TO PEARL HARBOR

Watch the video series here

Time is running out to preserve the legacies of those who served our country, at home and abroad, during World War II. There are approximately 620,000 WWII Veterans still alive of the 16 million who served our nation and very few who were present for the attack on Pearl Harbor. With 372 dying each day, we will lose a direct line to these remarkable stories of sacrifice within the next few years.
With the help of Wish of a Lifetime, Pearl Harbor Survivor and World War II veteran, Mel Heckman and 3 generations of his family went back to Pearl Harbor for the 75th Anniversary and what was called, The Last Reunion.
Scroll down to discover more about Mel’s story and check out his remarkable journey back to Pearl Harbor in the video series above!

Give Today

Donate now and help us honor and celebrate the sacrifices of seniors like Mel.

Give Monthly

Invest in making a difference in the lives of others, join our movement today.

Follow Mel's Journey

Sign-up for our newsletter and receive videos, photographs, and interviews of Mel’s journey!

Scroll Down to Discover Mel’s Story

| I knew the United States was going to go to war.

At just 17-years-old, Mel made the decision to enlist in the Navy. “I delivered the Sunday Philadelphia newspaper, pulling a wooden express wagon on a rural route. The headlines constantly talked about a man named Adolf Hitler who was waging war in Europe. Every week, I saw the headlines and they said the same thing, ‘He Took One More Country.’ So I knew the United States was going to go to war. So I figured I may as well join the service now and get an early start.”

| Advice from Pappy.

After boot camp and training to become an Aviation Machinist Mate, Mel found himself aboard the USS Worden, on his way to Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. He spent countless hours fixing planes. It was during this time that he met a man named Clark, who’s advice eventually led him to flight school. “He was quite elderly and we called him Pappy Clark. We used to have one hour off for lunch and I’d get my lunch really quick and Clark and I would meet…I was 17 years old, he told me that I didn’t want to work in A and R (Assembly and Repair) all my life. There were too many other schools in the Navy I could apply for…So I took the examinations and passed…Then I went on a waiting list and forgot about it.” Before Mel could pursue flight school, he found himself in the middle of a war.

| A day that will live in infamy.

Mel was assigned to the fire station as part of a 24-hour rotation of duty when he saw one of the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor. “I had skipped breakfast and got coffee and donuts on the way to the fire station. I never did know what happened to them.” He remained on duty for the next couple of days, putting out fires, digging trenches, and helping with body recovery.
He sustained injuries to his legs, back, and arms. “The doctor told me to go to the swimming pool and put some chlorine water on the injuries…and while i was there to take a drink of some of that chlorine water, saying ‘there is not enough chlorine there to kill you, but it’s enough water to keep you from dehydrating.'” The impact of that day takes a toll on Mel 75 years later, as he still suffers pain from shrapnel lodged in his back.

Mel's Story In the News

CBS Evening News

Pearl Harbor hero, 93, returns on the 75th anniversary of the attacks

Mel Heckman helped saved the lives of his fellow sailors during the Pearl Harbor attacks. Seventy-five years later, Heckman returned to the site with his family to commemorate that day. John Blackstone reports.

Mel's Story In the News

The Sheridan Press

Pearl Harbor Survivor Mel Heckman is escorted into the Malcolm Wallop Terminal by Jim Schlenker for his send off Thursday morning on his flight to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Veterans and friends came to the Sheridan County Airport to wish him well on his trip. Heckman is one of the few remaining Pearl Harbour survivors left in Wyoming. View more photographs.

Photo Courtesy of The Sheridan Press

Mel spent five years after the attack working his way up from 2nd Class Aviation Machinist Mate to being sponsored to go to Officers Candidate School by Admiral Nimitz. On March 13th, 1944, he had earned his Navy Wings and Commission and by May 26th, 1946 at the rank of Ensign, “had served [his] time and it was time to get out.”

With 250 Wishes granted in 2016 so far and 168 waiting to be fulfilled, give now and help create lasting memories for many more deserving seniors.

Give Today

Donate now and help us honor and celebrate the sacrifices of seniors like Mel.

Give Monthly

Invest in making a difference in the lives of others, join our movement today.

Follow Mel's Journey

Sign-up for our newsletter and receive videos, photographs, and interviews of Mel’s journey!

The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor

 

Listen as Melvin Heckman recalls some of the detailed moments that took place on Ford Island on December 7th, 1941.  |  Article and interview by Judy Hagerott on Thu 12/11/2014 | Sheridan Media

 

Interactive Map and Description of Events

 

Take a look at the events that took place during the attack on Pearl Harbor in this interactive tour of December 7, 1941. The images juxtapose American and Japanese views of the attack, as well as its devastating aftermath. | The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

 

Watch the 75th Commemoration LIVE

 

Join us as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Featured speakers include Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, best-selling author Ian Toll, and the Museum’s Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian Robert Citino.