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Pearl Harbor Survivor Sterling Cale Dies

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

HONOLULU – Pearl Harbor survivor Sterling Cale, a longtime Hawaii resident who met thousands of visitors at Pearl Harbor National Memorial, has died. The veteran of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Wars was 102.

He was hospitalized last month and died January 20, surrounded by family at his Aiea home that has a commanding view of Battleship Row.

“He lived an incredible life serving our country with bravery and honor in three wars,” the Cale family said in a statement. “We will miss him so much but know he’s now with his wife Victoria. She died five years ago and was the love of his life.”

Cale was a longtime volunteer at Pacific Historic Parks, a non-profit that supports the National Park Service in the stewardship of Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” said Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks. “He was a very important person to us and to many others. We wish peace and prayers for the family.”

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Cale had just left his overnight shift as a hospital corpsman at the Pearl Harbor dispensary. In his book, Sterling Cale: A True American, Cale recounted hearing gunfire and seeing puffs of smoke. He initially thought it was a training exercise but then saw a plane with the Rising Sun on the fuselage and wings and said to himself, “My God, those are Japanese planes.”

In his book, he described how he rushed to the harbor and helped retrieve 46 men from the burning waters. “Some of them were already dead, some burned, some wounded, and some were just tired, having been blown off or jumped from the ship,” he wrote. In the following days, he was assigned to remove remains from the USS Arizona.

In the epilogue to his book, Cale wrote that he didn’t visit the USS Arizona Memorial until 1974, twelve years after it opened. “I didn’t want to reflect,” he wrote. “I knew I would recognize many of the names on the wall and wondered about what happened to them. Pearl Harbor haunted me, but I did my best to put it behind me, focus on the present, and be positive about everything.”

Cale retired from 57 years of government service in 2005 and began volunteering at Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Known affectionately as “Uncle Sterling,” he spoke to school groups and signed his book for visitors from around the world.

In recent years, Pacific Historic Parks helped organize birthday celebrations outside the PHP park bookstore, complete with banners, balloons, and cake. Unfortunately, his 102nd birthday was scrubbed by a pounding storm. The balloons, banner, and cake went to his Aiea home for a celebration among family and friends.

Sterling Cale was scheduled to attend the recent 82nd Commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor but canceled due to health reasons. Five other Pearl Harbor survivors attended, all but one over 100.

At the 81st Commemoration on December 7, 2022, a photo of Cale with fellow Pearl Harbor survivor Jack Holder was the cover of Pacific Historic Parks Remembrance magazine. They were being greeted by USMC Lt. General Stephen D. Slenka, Deputy Commander of U.S. Indo Pacific Command. Holder died in February of this year at the age of 101. At the 82nd Commemoration, a partial scattering of Holder’s ashes occurred at the USS Utah Memorial. Holder will be formally buried in Arlington.

Services for Sterling Cale will be held March 7 at Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. He will be buried alongside his wife Victoria.

They were married in historic Kawaiaha’o Church in 1942 and had two children, Sterling and Estralita. The couple renewed their vows for their 67th wedding anniversary on the USS Arizona Memorial.

At the conclusion of the book, son Sterling wrote this passage:

“Through my father’s story, we have been able to share one man’s sacrifices for his country. We hope that the citizens of the U.S. continue to recognize the efforts of its military personnel and honor their unique stories. May we take the life of one man and his family to heart and emulate it to continue our country’s great legacy and remember the sacrifices that were made for our freedom.”



Jim McCoy, PHP Director of Communications

Email:  |  Mobile: 808-373-0419


ABOUT: Headquartered in Waipahu, HI, Pacific Historic Parks is the non-profit cooperative association of the National Park Service and has been raising funds and providing support to NPS operations at Pearl Harbor since 1979, when the organization was known as the Arizona Memorial Museum Association. PHP’s mission is to “support the National Park Service through research, preservation, restoration, fund development, education and interpretive programs of World War II in the Pacific and other Pacific historic sites.” PHP also supports National Park Service operations at: Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai; the War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam, and the American Memorial Park on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. Since 2014, Pacific Historic Parks has also partnered with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources

to support the Diamond Head State Monument. See

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