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Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Socha dies day before anniversary of Japanese attack

By JOHN FRYAR | Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo. | Published: December 8, 2020

LONGMONT, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Edward John Socha, a Pearl Harbor survivor who had recently moved to Longmont, died Sunday, the day before the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, that led to this nation's formal entry into World War II on Dec. 8, 1941.

Socha, a retired Navy commander, died at his Longmont home early Sunday morning, with family members present. He was 99 years old.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Socha was standing on the USS Maryland flag bridge battle station in Pearl Harbor as the USS Oklahoma, moored next to his ship, took several Japanese torpedoes to its hull and sank within minutes, according to a Sun City, Fla., Observer story about Socha's experience — a story about an event in which friends marked his departure from that community to join family members living in Longmont.

In a December 2019 interview with Tampa Bay's Fox News 13, Socha recalled that "it was very quiet, and all of a sudden, the harbor erupted." He said: "Everything just blew."

In his interview with that Florida TV station as that year's Pearl Harbor Day anniversary approached, he said the Oklahoma managed to escape with relatively minor damage and was the first of the massive ships to return to the war following the attack.

On Dec. 7, though, sailors manned the deck guns to fight back against the Japanese warplanes, Socha said.

"Nobody ran into any foxholes or things like that. There weren't any. I mean nobody expected anything like that," he told the newspaper.

Barbara Wilsey, Socha's 68-year-old daughter, said in a Monday interview that her father hadn't told her much about his Pearl Harbor and World War II experiences until she was 16 but that he later accepted multiple invitations to talk about them to school and community gatherings.

Socha told the Tampa Bay Tribune in December 2019 that he wasn't a hero.

"There we were, part of history, I guess. We didn't realize it. We were just doing our jobs."

Barbara Wilsey, a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors organization, said her father sometimes joked that "his goal in life was to be the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor. He tried as hard as he could, but he didn't make it."

Edward Socha is seen with his wife, Naomi, at Norfolk Naval Base.(Courtesy Photo)

Socha was born on Aug. 4, 1921, in Highmarket, N.Y. He graduated from Niagara Falls Senior High School in 1939 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy that September, according to an obituary his family has prepared. He went to Newport, R.I., boot camp, and then attended fleet school in San Diego before being assigned as personal secretary of Command Battleships at Pearl Harbor on board the USS Maryland as a yeoman first class.

In 1943-1944, Socha was stationed at U.S. Naval Mobile Hospital No. 8 on Guadalcanal, where he was commissioned an ensign. Following enrollment in Scouts and Raiders training in Fort Pierce, Fla., he spent the spring of 1945 in China assisting in the training of Chinese commandos until the war's end.

Until his retirement as a commander in 1966, he served multiple assignments at the Pentagon, two years on the Aleutian island of Adak, and completed his service at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

Socha held private sector employment from 1966 to 1983 with the Lummus Company as engineering administrator, working in that company's Atlanta, Houston, and Bloomfield, N.J. offices, living in Morris Township, N.J. until moving to Sun City Center, Fla., in 1987.

Edward Socha, Pearl Harbor survivor.(Courtesy Photo)

His family said Socha was very active in the Sun City Center community, serving as director of the Sun City Center Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America for five years and as its president in 1994. He was a life member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association. He served on the Board of the Retired Officers' Association and the Military Officers Benevolent Corporation at Freedom Plaza in Sun City Center.

"He was all about community service" when he lived in Sun City Center, his daughter said.

On March 1, 2017, Socha was presented with the Navy SEALS Trident in recognition of the role the World War II Scouts and Raiders played as the forerunners of the present-day SEALS.

Socha married Naomi A. Sucher of Louisville, Ky., in August 1948, in Newport, R.I.. She preceded him in death in May 2019. They had two children, son Donald (wife Benita and children Christina and Xavier), who preceded his father in death, and daughter Barbara Wilsey (husband Martin, children Joshua (Stephanie), Timothy (Juliana) and Samuel (Elizabeth). He leaves behind 13 great-grandchildren: Alexa, Kian, Emelyn, Tanith, Cora, Erienne, Marilise, Reese, Emma, Grace, Abigail, Micah, and Hannah.

He is survived by brother Theodore Socha and two sisters, Veronica and Adeline, along with many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Baptist Church in Sun City Center at a time to be determined. He will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

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