Frank Edmond, 98, played a concert hours before the Japanese attack on Navy ships in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Frank Edmond remembers Dec. 7, 1941, as the day the music — and the musicians — died.
Edmond, now 98 and living in Pensacola, Fla., spent the night before the Japanese attack competing against bands from the other Navy ships berthed in Pearl Harbor.
The French horn player and the rest of the warship Pennsylvania Naval Band won the competition before calling it a night, their performance of “Georgia on My Mind” propelling them to victory.
The night wrapped up just before the midnight curfew with everyone singing “God Bless America.”
Only eight hours later, Japanese bombs sunk the mighty Arizona and killed every member of its band.
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“I think about those men on the Arizona," Edmond said recently from his home. “They were the same age as me. I played a concert with them the night before.
“And found out the next day or two that they were all gone. I keep thinking that their families would be proud of them.”
Edmond watched the initial bombs drop from the deck of his ship shortly before 8 a.m. Before the second wave arrived, he looked out over the once-serene harbor.
“In between, I got up on the deck and I could see all the ships burning,” he recalled.
Edmond remembers the "smell of the burnt flesh" as he tried to help anyone he could.
The overmatched forces on the ground were helpless against the relentless waves of planes: “We were in a bad place. We had no guns to shoot at those planes.”
Once the barrage ended, Edmond grabbed a stretcher, running madly around the decimated base in search of anyone still breathing. The grim duty quickly turned gruesome.
“You couldn’t grab them by the skin, because the skin would fall off,” he said. “What bothered me, what I still remember, is the smell of the burnt flesh.”
Edmond, originally from Rhode Island, has far fonder memories of his time in the service. At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, he lived on site in Queens — sharing tents with the other Navy band members. Every night at 5, they gathered and performed for the crowds.
And Pearl Harbor was a dream until it became a nightmare.
“You could take a bus into town and walk around,” he said. “We didn’t have much money, so we played tennis a lot. It was free on the bases. We used to swim quite a bit.”
He returned with some fellow survivors for the 70th anniversary, a trip that turned out to be bittersweet.
“It was completely different,” he recalled. “And yet it brought back a lot of memories. I can’t help thinking about all those killed at that time.”