Swede Boreen and Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue II catch up following the ceremony.
Hundreds of people began clapping as Roy “Swede” Boreen entered Marshall Park on Wednesday morning.
As the 96-year-old was pushed through a crowd of several hundred people, many stepped up to shake his hand and one person gave him a fist bump, a gesture that drew a wide smile.
Boreen is thought to be Moore County’s oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was just 21 years old when his battleship was struck by nine torpedoes 75 years ago.
He was securing the water tight doors in his area when a torpedo slammed into the USS Oklahoma, hitting the compartment adjacent to him. The blast ruptured a fuel tank and left Boreen covered from head to toe.
Boreen managed to climb topside and down the side of the ship before it capsized. A total of 443 Americans died aboard the ship and 2,403 were killed that day.
The Village of Pinehurst hosted a ceremony in memory of the lives lost Wednesday. Boreen was also honored with a mayoral proclamation for his service to the country.
“There is a vast difference between being famous and being great,” Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said. “Great people are very rare. Today you’re in the presence of a great individual, my friend Swede Boreen.”
A vintage photo of Swede Boreen from the National WWII Museum.
After surviving the Pearl Harbor attack, Boreen returned to service before retiring in 1959. Following the ceremony, he was greeted with a long line of people waiting to offer their gratitude.
Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue II, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command, gave the keynote address.
Donahue said the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day serves as a “reminder of the strength, perseverance and resilience of the American people.”
“We took a hit that day, but we didn’t stay down,” he said.
It was fitting to have the ceremony in Marshall Park, which is named for George Catlett Marshall. The Army general resided in Pinehurst from 1952 until his death in 1959.
During that time, Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to restore Europe’s economy following World War II. You may remember learning about the Marshall Plan during history class.
After serving as Chief of Staff, he was tapped for Secretary of State. He went on to become the President of the Red Cross and Secretary of Defense.
“Gen. George Marshall was probably the greatest American of the 20th century,” Donahue said.
Donahue referenced the granite monument at the center of the park, pointing out Marshall’s long list of accomplishments.
“This is a great tribute to a great American and I’m glad to be standing here beside it today.”