Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Coles, 92, is all smiles while talking about the law enforcement motorcade that escorted him to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton on Saturday so he could fly to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the attack. See related video. ISLANDER PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Police, fire escort aids Pearl Harbor veteran

TRENTON — A Machias man who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 left from the airport here Saturday, Dec. 3, to return to Hawaii for the 75th Anniversary of the event that propelled the United States into World War II.

Robert Coles, 92, of Machias and his traveling companion, Dennis Boyd, also a Navy veteran, were escorted to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport by a caravan of law enforcement and fire department vehicles, including the Maine State Police, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. The procession included full lights and sirens.

At the airport, Coles was greeted by hugs from car rental agent Emily Muise and others. He posed for photos with members of his escort team and TSA personnel. Coles said the caravan to the airport was the thrill of a lifetime. “You don’t know what VIP treatment is until you’ve been treated that way,” Coles said. “This entire experience is restoring my faith in America,” he said.

Coles is a survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941-attack on Pearl Harbor. He was just 17 and serving as a radioman on the destroyer USS Bagley. He ran up on deck, manned a machine gun and, despite never having any training on the weapon, is believed to have hit two attacking Japanese aircraft. He took the first leg of his trip from Maine to Hawaii on a Cape Air flight to Boston. He was offered a seat of honor in the copilot’s spot but deferred, saying he was perfectly content to sit in a regular passenger seat.

After taking a Cape Air flight and staying in Boston overnight, Coles and Boyd left Sunday for Los Angeles, where they were scheduled to catch an Honor Flight to Honolulu. The 75th anniversary of the attack is Wednesday, Dec. 7, although commemorative events are scheduled for the entire week.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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