FORD ISLAND, Hawaii (NNS) -- Pearl Harbor survivor and former crew member of USS Utah (AG-16) had his ashes returned to his former ship during an internment ceremony held at the ship's memorial on Ford Island, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, June 11.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Oberto's ashes were taken by National Park Service divers and one Navy diver who placed the remains inside the sunken ship to rest with his lost shipmates.
Oberto is the seventh crew member of the Utah to have his ashes interred inside the ship.
Oberto's family members flew to Hawaii from Arizona to fulfill his last request. In attendance were his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
"His family made it all possible," said retired Master Chief Yeoman Jim Taylor, liaison for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "The Navy performed, as its usual outstanding self rendering honors to him, along with the National Park Service divers and the Navy diver."
"He gave me all the information before he passed away and said that after he was gone, I was to follow through and complete this for him," said Oberto's daughter, Leean O' Malley.
"It's just a big deal," said Oberto's grandson, Raymond O' Malley. "It's something he asked me to participate in and do, which is why I received his flag here today. It's just a very big deal to me."
Oberto who was getting ready to go on liberty so that he could attend a music festival, found himself instead on his ship when it was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.
"He scrambled to safety to the main deck from the third deck and somehow managed to get off the ship," said Taylor. "He ended up sliding across the side and the bottom of the ship, which ended up cutting him pretty badly because of the barnacles on the side of the ship."
Oberto then swam to shore, mostly underwater to avoid strafing bullets from the Japanese aircraft, according to Taylor. When Oberto reached Ford Island he ran to safety and was placed on another ship where his injuries were cared for.
"He witnessed tragedy with dead bodies all over the place and even dead bodies being towed," said Taylor. "It was something he remembered all his life."
Oberto served four and a half years in the Navy in which he was crew member on both the Utah and Brooklyn-class light-cruiser, USS Honolulu (CL-48).
He survived the Japanese attack on his ship at Pearl Harbor and was a veteran of thirteen naval battles across the Pacific Theater.
After the Navy, Oberto saw his time spent as a disc jockey, a musician in the Chicago Orchestra, a cook, and a music teacher.
He passed away April 16, 2007, at the age of 85.
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