Oldest surviving US veteran of Pearl Harbor dies in California

Nov 21 (Reuters) - The oldest surviving U.S. veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack that plunged the United States into World War Two died in California on Wednesday, domestic media reported.

Ray Chavez, 106, died in his sleep early on Wednesday in a hospice in Poway, a community north of San Diego, his daughter Kathleen Chavez told the San Diego Union Tribune.

Chavez frequently attended commemorative events around the United States, including a visit to the White House on Memorial Day weekend, the newspaper reported.

"We are saddened to hear the oldest living Pearl Harbor veteran, Ray Chavez, has passed away at the age of 106. We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year. Thank you for your service to our great Nation, Ray!" the White House said on Twitter.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor took place at 7:55 a.m. Honolulu time on Dec. 7, 1941, famously dubbed "a date which will live in infamy" by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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Pearl Harbor survivors visit the base on the 75th Anniversary
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Pearl Harbor survivors visit the base on the 75th Anniversary
Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Hughes, who was aboard the USS Utah when it was attacked, arrives at a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pearl Harbor survivor Delton Walling talks with U.S. Navy Admiral Margaret Kibben before a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Pearl Harbor survivors Delton Walling (C), Gilbert Meyer (R) and U.S. Navy Admiral Margaret Kibben salute during a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Pearl Harbor survivor Gilbert Meyer, who was aboard the USS Utah when it was attacked, attends a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Hughes, who was aboard the USS Utah when it was attacked, arrives at a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Pearl Harbor survivor Delton Walling walks with family members during a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Hughes, who was aboard the USS Utah when it was attacked, arrives at a ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS Utah at the memorial on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
USS Arizona survivor Loren Bruner looks out the window of a helicopter during a special tour over the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
USS Arizona survivor Loren Bruner looks out the window of a helicopter as he took a special tour over the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
James Leavelle, a 96-year-old Pearl Harbor Survivor, attends an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend ceremonies for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., December 2, 2016. Picture taken December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
Nelson Mitchell, a 97-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, attends an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend ceremonies for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., December 2, 2016. Picture taken December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
Emery Arsenault, a 95-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, attends an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend ceremonies for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., December 2, 2016. Picture taken December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
Tom Person, a 95-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, salutes during the national anthem at an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend ceremonies for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., December 2, 2016. Picture taken December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
Tom Person, a 95-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, attends an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend ceremonies for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. December 2, 2016. Picture taken December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
The USO show troop from New York performs during an event honoring 30 surviving World War II veterans who will travel to Hawaii to attend the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., December 2, 2016. Picture taken on December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ted Soqui
Jerry Yellin, a former captain and World War Two Army Air Force P-51 pilot, embraces Hiroya Sugano, director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, during the 6th annual Blackened Canteen ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, during the 75th Commemoration of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. December 6, 2016. US Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ray Chavez, 104, the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor, rings the Freedom Bell during the Freedom Bell Opening Ceremony and Bell Ringing at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. December 6, 2016. U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Wesley Timm/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Pearl Harbor survivor Fred Smith signs his autograph for Melissa Downy before the ceremonies honoring the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor - Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, US December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
HONOLULU, HI - DECEMBER 07: USS Arizona survivor Louis Conter signs autographs before the start of a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor at Kilo Pier on December 07, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
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The attack killed 2,390 Americans and the United States declared war on Japan the next day.

Fewer than 200 survivors of the attacks there and on other military bases in Hawaii were alive in 2016.

Chavez was a member of the crew of the USS Condor, a minesweeper, at Pearl Harbor on the morning of the attacks. He went to bed at his home in nearby Ewa Beach after the Condor swept the east entrance to the harbor earlier that morning, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

"My wife ran in and said, 'We're being attacked,' and I said, 'Who's going to attack us? Nobody.' She said that the whole harbor was on fire and when I got outside I saw that everything was black from all the burning oil," he once said, according to the newspaper.

Chavez was on continuous duty in and around Pearl Harbor over the next nine days. He then served four years in the U.S. Navy, helping deliver tanks and Marines to shore in eight Pacific battles, the newspaper reported.

He later attended Pearl Harbor events more than a dozen times, his daughter told the newspaper.

"We went last year and if he was still alive, we were going back again next month," Kathleen Chavez said.

"I think he enjoyed the experience but he never saw himself as any different from the other men he served with. He'd always say, 'I'm no hero. I just did my job’,” she said.

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