Edward Block said he is not a survivor of Pearl Harbor, though he was there on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japanese forces attacked.
According to him, he’s a survivor of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the largest naval battle ever fought.
Block was blown from one end of the destroyer to the other. Part of his shoulder was blown off. He was thrown into the ocean and waited 57 hours to be rescued while shipmates around him were eaten by sharks.
He then spent 14 months recovering in Great Lakes Hospital. “I was pieces put back together,” he said.
On the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, Block was on the U.S.S. Medusa. He was the ship’s barber.
“I was sleeping in the barbershop,” he said. “I heard a loud noise and saw bombs going off right next to me.”
The ship was in four feet of water, he said. It had been moved the night before the attacks. The Medusa was hit, he said, and the ship lurched back and forth. But it couldn’t sink.
The Medusa was the first to sight a Japanese submarine. It performed rescue missions of sailors thrown in to the water during the attack.
He wanted to be a lifer in the navy, said his niece Arlene Hanchi, but was not able to because of his injuries. He instead worked a myriad of jobs before opening his own barbershop in Lyons.
Block is actively involved in veterans’ activities. “It’s his life,” Hanchi said.
Block is 93. He said he fully intends to make it to 100.