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Mainer who survived Pearl Harbor: ‘I could have got him with a potato’

Christopher Cousins | BDN
Christopher Cousins | BDN
Ruth Parker of Camden and Floyd Keniston of Hollis, who were both in Hawaii 75 years ago for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, shared some of their stories Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, at the State House in Augusta. Keniston was in the Navy and Parker was in the Women's Air Raid Defense of the Hawaiian Islands.

AUGUSTA, Maine — It’s been 75 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but Floyd Keniston and Ruth Parker remember it in vivid detail.

Keniston of Hollis and Parker of Camden didn’t know each other that horrible morning while the bombs rained down but met each other Wednesday at the State House, where they were honored by lawmakers.

Keniston was a U.S. Navy sailor aboard the USS Argonne. Parker was a radar reader as a member of the Women’s Air Raid Defense of the Hawaiian Islands. Both could see the smoke rising into the sky on Pearl Harbor day.

Keniston said he was aboard the USS Argonne looking for his toothbrush when he heard the first explosions. He said he rushed to the deck just in time to see a Japanese aircraft streak by just off the ship’s hull.

“I could have got him with a potato, but I didn’t have any potatoes,” recalled Keniston. “I didn’t have any ammo or anything, but if I did, I could have shot that guy right out of the air.”

Parker’s experience was different. She and her husband lived away from the attack, but they could see and hear the battle. Her husband bolted out of their home, leaving her in emotional agony.

“The planes flew right over our house,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was thinking about my husband.”

Keniston’s focus was saving lives. He was on a 50-foot boat, plucking soldiers and sailors out of the water.

“I wasn’t afraid,” he said. “I had been trained to do something, and I did it. I wasn’t afraid then, but I was later.”

Parker flinched a little when asked to recall those moments so many years ago.

“Oh my God. That’s what it was like,” she said. “It was very frightening.”

One commonality among Parker and Keniston is that since Pearl Harbor, they have lived their lives as regular Americans, out of the limelight. When a reporter asked Keniston what it was like to be honored by the Legislature on Wednesday, he had this to say:

“I don’t know. It’s just a waste of time.”


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