Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | December 8, 2018

Visit with Pearl Harbor Survivor


Scrolling through Pearl Harbor images to use with this post, I couldn’t help but think, “these are sights that Bill Leibold saw in person”!

We had such a nice visit today.  Bill and his lovely wife, Grace, built a home on Palomar in the mid 1970’s.  Known as “The Ship House” out on Birch Hill, it was ‘home’ for twenty years.

At nearly 96 years young, Bill retired as a Naval Commander and is the is the last survivor of the USS Tang.  His submarine went down two years after Pearl Harbor.  Bill was also at Pearl Harbor that fateful day in 1941.   In the past, I’ve shared some of his stories serving our country.  The stories with photos are included as links,  below.

I was so pleased to hear Bill’s voice on the phone and asked what he was doing 77 years ago today.  Sharp as a tack, he shared a bit.  At 18 years old , he and his buddies were assigned to the USS Pruitt.  It was in dry-dock for repairs, so it was stripped of it’s guns and ammunition.  The sailors had just finished breakfast and were talking about what they were going to be doing that day.  All of a sudden they heard aircraft, Bill ran to the window on that Sunday morning and saw planes flying over with “a big read meatball on the side”.  He called out, “It’s the Japs!”.

They ran to see what they could do to help.  Bill and two buddies were sent to the Battleship Pennsylvania.  They were manning the guns facing the harbor, toward Battleship Row.  These young men were firing overhead at aircraft.  Bill’s two shipmates lost their lives that day.  Bill picked up shrapnel and he and others “continued on with our day’s work, doing our job”.

A heart-felt thank you to Bill, his shipmates, all past and present US servicemen and women. Real heroes, doing their job, so we have the freedom to do what we enjoy.


Bonnie Phelps

See also:  Pearl Harbor to Palomar

Presumed Lost in WWII

Bill Leibold USS Tang Flag and Dog Tags




  1. So happy to hear you talked to Bill on the phone! We last talked to him just as he was about to move into the assisted care home so it’s been awhile. We think of him so often and wondering if it would be possible for you to send us his telephone number and address. We have yet to make a trip back to CA and hard to believe it was 20 years ago that we sold our mountain home. I’m sitting at my computer desk on a little wooden chair that we found at the Palomar dump with Bill doing some repair and refinishing for us. Still have the wooden potato and onion storage box he made for us too! Merry Christmas and the season’s best to you always, Diane and Jim Clark

    • He will love to hear from you!!! You’ll make is day!

  2. Little known fact. My mother, Alice Kilgore was also at Pearl. She was not military, but civil service. The secretary to an air base commander.

    • Oh my, Sharon. I would have never guessed. Love to do a story about her. She really saw a lot and was a very busy gal working for an officer.

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