“To be alive today, I’m so grateful,” he said in an interview published on Veterans Day in 2010.
McNeill, one of the of the area’s few local Pearl Harbor survivors, died Monday at Stringfellow Memorial Hospital, according to an announcement from K.L. Brown Memory Chapel. He was 95.
In 1941, McNeill was an Army supply sergeant assigned to Schofield Barracks on Oahu . When Japanese planes began dropping bombs on the island on the morning of Dec. 7, McNeill and his fellow soldiers rushed to assemble their defensive positions on the island, he said in a 2010 interview.
“I was looking … staring at the ships as they burned, but I didn’t have time to pay any attention with the planes flying overhead,” he said.
McNeill survived the attack, and outlived the war. According to his funeral announcement, he went on to serve in the Korean War and put in a full career with the Army, retiring from the Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan. Then he started a civilian career with the federal government, working for the post engineer at the fort.
McNeill was an active member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association – small but tight-knit brotherhood of veterans. A 1991 Star article names McNeill as one of the people who campaigned for the creation of a Pearl Harbor survivors’ license plate. McNeill told The Star that whenever he saw a stranger with the tag, would pull them over in order to meet them.
Back then – 50 years after the Pearl Harbor attack -- there were only 115 people in the state who qualified for the tag, and only seven tags sold in Calhoun County.
When a Star reporter profiled Pearl Harbor survivors in 2004, there were just six left in the local area.
In 2010, McNeill and the remaining local members of the Survivors Association were grand marshals of Anniston’s Veterans Day parade. By then, there were only four of them.
And when McNeill celebrated his 95th birthday in August, he was one of three local Pearl Harbor veterans. Fellow Pearl Harbor survivor Paul Patrick Joyce died in January. According to accounts in The Star, Joyce was well known locally as a master carpenter who, for the first 25 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, rarely spoke about the events of Dec. 7. 1941. Joyce had been on the USS Utah when the attack began.
Accounts in the press offer different versions of what Glenn McNeill was doing at the time the Pearl Harbor when the first bomb fell. In 2010, he told Star reporter Cameron Steele that he was sleeping in his bunk when he was wakened by the sound of airplanes. Nineteen years earlier, he told Star columnist Catherine Downing that he was eating breakfast when the attack began.
“Time takes its toll,” he said in that interview. “You begin to forget some things and you don’t care about the others.
“But the thing we learned,” he continued, “was to never let your guard down.”
A funeral service, with full military honors, will be held Thursday at K.L. Brown Memory Chapel in Golden Springs.