Pearl Harbor Survivor Remembers Attack

pitts, pearl harbor

At 7:55 on Thursday morning at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, there was a moment of silence. It marked that moment when heroes died and men were born, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Tom Mahoney was 18 then, handsome and hopeful. Today, at 84, his heart is still broken over what happened on Dec. 7, 1941 — a "day that will live in infamy."

"I could never go back," he says.

That day, more than 2,400 Americans were killed. Another 1,178 were injured. And Mahoney, aboard the USS Curtis, suffered unforgettable lows.

"We went over to the handling room, opened the door and there were five of my friends that we just had breakfast with. They didn't have a chance," Mahoney says.

Tom's older brother was also aboard ship. He was lost amid all the smoke and suffering.

"I turned to the fellow next to me. I said, 'Did you hear anything about the Mahoney boys?'" Tom says. "He said, 'Who the hell are you?' I said, 'I'm Tom Mahoney.' He said, 'I'm your brother Harold.' And we cried and hugged like the kids we really were."

Sixty-five years later, Tom Mahoney is still proud of his service. Time has slowed his stride but not his spirit. He still carries in his pocket a piece of shrapnel from his ship.

"It keeps me safe," he says. "I think so."

It's a fact: He and his generation kept the world safe.

For more information about Pearl Harbor, please contact the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund.