HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Sherwin Callander, one of Huntsville’s most beloved citizens and a World War II veteran, passed away Monday evening. He was 102.
Callander died at the Floyd E. Tutt Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville. He he spent the last 12 years of his life in Huntsville. He frequently shared his experiences in the Navy, notably his time pulling bodies of fallen sailors from the waters of Pearl Harbor after it was attacked in 1941.
Before his death, he was believed to be the oldest Pearl Harbor survivor in Madison County.
In a 2019 interview when he recalled that attack, Callander said, “We were coming back from Wake Island and the Japanese aircraft carrier passed us. They didn’t want to spoil the surprise so they let us go.”
He recalled it, “The worst mess I’ve ever seen in my life. There was still some bodies in the water. I had to help get them out.”
In that interview three years ago, Callander said his advice to young men coming up in the armed forces would be, “That they remember Pearl Harbor from now on and never, never let it happen again.”
When asked in 2017 what got him to join the armed forces, Callander gave a plain and simple answer.
“Man they trying to introduce us, he says you’ll have a girl in every port,” he explained. “I said ‘sign me up.'”
Callander said, even in his 70s, he tried to volunteer to serve again during the Gulf War.
“When Desert Storm started, I went and tried to volunteer, and they wouldn’t take me,” he stated in 2014. “I got mad at them and they still wouldn’t take me.”
Callander told News 19 on several occasions that the best way to honor a veteran is to simply thank them for their service.
“The kids need to know what the service men went through and how many were killed,” Callander explained during a Bob Jones school event five years ago. “They were only three or four years older than these kids we’re talking to.”
“Whenever you see [a veteran], walk up to him,” he said. “It’ll make their chest swell out a little bit when you shake their hand and thank them.”
His granddaughter tells us a memorial service will be held in a few weeks.