Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22)
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22) today, in a speech to the House of Representatives, paid tribute to Thomas Strayer Nelson, a 100-year-old World War II US Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor.
You can click here to watch the full remarks.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of Thomas Strayer Nelson of Ilion, New York, who turns 100 years old today. Mr. Nelson is one of the last living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He joined the Navy right out of high school and was assigned to the USS Wasmuth, a Clemson-class destroyer that was docked in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He left the Navy as a first-class electrician’s mate.
But on that fateful day, 80 years ago, 19-year-old Thomas Strayer Nelson was lying in his bunk aboard the ship, docked in her Pearl Harbor, when the alarm sounded. Sensing trouble, Tom made it topside where he saw several Japanese planes bombing American ships. He quickly assessed that this was not a drill. Tom quickly jumped on his .50-caliber machine gun and successfully helped defend the Wasmuth and its crew on that fateful day. The wreckage was devastating: nearly 20 US ships were damaged or sank at sea, and more than 2,400 Americans, including civilians, were killed. Tom remembers crying that day in the aftermath.
But Tom’s heroism did not stop there. Nearly one year later in December of 1942, the Wasmuth was escorting a convoy when it was knocked off its tracks and two mines exploded below the ship. The Wasmuth sank, but 134 crew, including Tom, were rescued, due in large part to Tom’s efforts.
Tom came back home and was an electrical inspector for over 27 years in his hometown of Ilion, New York, where he has resided for nearly his entire life.
I had the great honor of meeting Tom this past weekend. At the age of 99—now 100 today—he was full of life and very engaging, and also had a wonderful sense of humor. I also had the pleasure of meeting his daughter, Janice, with whom he’s been living for the past two years, who provides great care for him, and his son, John, who is also providing loving care to Tom, and, as a former state trooper, has now taken on the mantle of also being an electrician in his father’s legacy.
But I just want to say, also—a wonderful family from this small community—Tom’s late wife, Gladys Cooley, passed away in 2015. He also had a daughter who passed away, and a son, Tom, that died very young from rheumatoid arthritis. (Rheumatic Fever). But, I just wanted to take this special time to recognize and thank someone who was part of our Greatest Generation from my community, one of the last survivors of Pearl Harbor, who actually was there when this occurred.
And I just want to thank his family and everyone for hosting me and greeting me and giving me the real unique opportunity to meet with this great hero of our country. And I just want to say thank you again to Tom for your heroism, for your service, your bravery, and I wish you another 100 years of good health and good cheer, and I look forward to seeing you again when I return to my hometown. Thank you so much.