STERLING HEIGHTS, MI (WXYZ) — Nearly 80 years ago, William Nuber of Michigan found himself and a handful of other survivors out at sea following a string of Kamikaze attacks on their U.S. Naval ship during World War II.
He was just 18 when he enlisted in the Navy and at the time, he didn't know what to expect. But it was his way to serve the country and see a bit of the world he thought.
“Our attitude of travel and what have you," Nuber said. "You didn’t do much of it. A big trip was to Mount Clemens.”
He served as a radio operator on ship LSMR 190 off of Okinawa. Not long into his deployment, his team faced sudden attacks while on radar picket duty.
After a few attacks, Nuber quickly found himself as the lone survivor on the ship's bridge.
"We had very good gunners and we shot down maybe 7, 8 planes, but this particular day there were so many planes, it just didn’t happen,” he said.
As the "captain’s talker," when the captain himself went down, Nuber jumped into action attempting to steer the ship into safety.
“Two more Kamikazes came in in our side and blew us apart,” Nuber recalls.
More than a dozen sailors were killed instantly. Dozens more, including Nuber, survived the blasts and jumped into the water.
Now 97-years-old Nuber says just two other living survivors of that attack remain, and he keeps in touch.
Following the war, Nuber became a Detroit police officer.
He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service during the attacks in May of 1945, as well as awards for valor for his attempts to save others.
We asked Nuber what has kept him sharp and healthy for so long. His response: eat a salad a day, and avoid cigarretes.
Wednesday, Oct. 27 marks Navy Day in the U.S., a time to recognize the bravery and service of men and women sailors through the years.
Nuber's flotilla had 12 other ships in it, and for 27 years he and his fellow veterans gathered annually in cities around the country to remember their service and spend time together. Over the years however, he said those gatherings have started to dwindle. Last year it was canceled because there were not enough men left to go.
According to recent estimates from the Department of Veteran Affairs, there are less than 326,000 World Ware II veterans alive today.