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Haunted by images of war, 101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

When Japanese bombs began falling on Pearl Harbor, US Navy Seaman 1st Class David Russell first sought refuge below deck on the USS Oklahoma.

But a split-second decision on that December morning 80 years ago changed his mind, and likely saved his life.

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“They started closing that hatch. And I decided to get out of there,” Russell, now 101, said in a recent interview.

Within 12 minutes his battleship would capsize under a barrage of torpedoes. Altogether 429 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma would perish — the greatest death toll from any ship that day other than the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177.

Russell plans to return to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday for a ceremony in remembrance of the more than 2,300 American troops killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

About 30 survivors and 100 other veterans from the war are expected to observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the attack began.

Survivors, now in their late 90s or older, stayed home last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead.

Russell is traveling to Hawaii with the Best Defense Foundation, a non-profit founded by former NFL Linebacker Donnie Edwards that helps World War II veterans revisit their old battlefields.

He recalls heading topside when the attack started because he was trained to load anti-aircraft guns and figured he could help if any other loader got hurt.

But Japanese torpedo planes dropped a series of underwater missiles that pummeled the Oklahoma before he could get there. Within 12 minutes, the hulking battleship capsized.

“Those darn torpedoes, they just kept hitting us and kept hitting us. I thought they’d never stop,” Russell said. “That ship was dancing around.”

Russell clambered over and around toppled lockers while the battleship slowly rolled over.

“You had to walk sort of sideways,” he said.
Once he got to the main deck, he crawled over the ship’s side and eyed the USS Maryland moored next door. He didn’t want to swim because leaked oil was burning in the water below. Jumping, he caught a rope hanging from the Maryland and escaped to that battleship without injury.

He then helped pass ammunition to the Maryland’s anti-aircraft guns.

After the battle, Russell and two others went to Ford Island, next to where the battleships were moored, in search of a bathroom. A dispensary and enlisted quarters there had turned into a triage center and place of refuge for hundreds of wounded, and they found horribly burned sailors lining the walls. Many would die in the hours and days ahead.

“Most of them wanted a cigarette, and I didn’t smoke at that time but I, uh, I got a pack of cigarettes and some matches, and I lit their cigarettes for them,” Russell said. “You feel for those guys, but I couldn’t do anything. Just light a cigarette for ‘em and let ‘em puff the cigarettes.”

Russell still thinks about how lucky he was. He ponders why he decided to go topside on the Oklahoma, knowing most of the men who stayed behind likely were unable to get out after the hatch closed.

In the first two days after the bombing, a civilian crew from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard rescued 32 men trapped inside the Oklahoma by cutting holes in its hull. But many others perished. Most of those who died were buried in anonymous Honolulu graves marked as “unknowns” because their remains were too degraded to be identified by the time they were removed from the ship between 1942 and 1944.

In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed 388 sets of these remains in hopes of identifying them with the help of DNA technology and dental records. They succeeded with 361.

Russell’s brother-in-law was among them. Fireman 1st Class Walter “Boone” Rogers was in the fireroom, which got hit by torpedoes, Russell said. The military identified his remains in 2017, and he’s since been reburied at Arlington National Cemetery.

Russell remained in the Navy until retiring in 1960. He worked at Air Force bases for the next two decades and retired for good in 1980.
His wife, Violet, passed away 22 years ago, and he now lives alone in Albany, Oregon. He drives himself to the grocery store and the local American Legion post in a black Ford Explorer while listening to polka music at top volume. When he’s not hanging out with other veterans at the legion, he reads military history and watches TV. He keeps a stack of 500-piece puzzles to keep his mind sharp.

For decades, Russell didn’t share much about his experiences in World War II because no one seemed to care. But the images from Pearl Harbor still haunt him, especially at night.

“When I was in the VA hospital there in San Francisco, they said, ‘We want you to talk about World War II.’ And I said, I told them, I said, ‘When we talk about it, people don’t believe us. They just walk away.’ So now people want to know more about it so we’re trying to talk about it. We’re trying to talk about it, and we’re just telling them what we saw,” he said. “You can’t forget it.”

Read more: France’s last surviving World War II resistance hero dies aged 101

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BBC halts ‘Top Gear’ filming after presenter Flintoff’s December crash

The BBC has abandoned filming of the latest series of motoring program “Top Gear” following an investigation into a December crash that injured former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, the British broadcaster said on Thursday.

Flintoff, 45, who quit cricket in 2010 and joined Top Gear as a host in 2019, was injured in a car crash during the filming of an episode in December and was said to be “lucky to be alive.”

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The Times newspaper reported, citing insiders, that Flintoff was quitting as co-presenter of “Top Gear,” one of BBC’s most successful shows. Flintoff co-hosted the show along with Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris.

“Under the circumstances, we feel it would be inappropriate to resume making series 34,” the BBC said, adding a decision on how best to continue would be made later this year.

The broadcaster said they have apologized to Flintoff, who is widely known for his heroics in the 2005 Ashes series against Australia, a highlight in his cricketing career that earned him cult status.

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Gwyneth Paltrow’s lawyer inquires about missing GoPro footage of ski crash

Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorneys asked the daughter of a man suing the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer over a 2016 ski collision about missing GoPro camera footage that they called “the most important piece of evidence” at trial Thursday.

Steve Owens, Paltrow’s attorney, asked one of the man’s daughters, Polly Grasham, about emails exchanged with her father about the mysterious footage and the possibility that the lawsuit was filed against Paltrow because she was famous.

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The GoPro footage has not been found or included as evidence for the trial.

“I’m famous … At what cost?” Terry Sanderson, the 76-year-old retired optometrist suing Paltrow, wrote in the subject line of an email to his family after the crash.

Sanderson is suing Paltrow for more than $300,000 in damages, claiming that she skied recklessly into him on a beginner run at Deer Valley Resort seven years ago, breaking his ribs and leaving him with a concussion. Paltrow has claimed Sanderson caused the crash and countersued for $1 and attorney fees.

Paltrow’s attorneys questioned whether Grasham and neuropsychologist Dr. Alina Fong could say with certainty that Sanderson’s downturn wasn’t a result of aging or documented, pre-crash conditions. They questioned Grasham about her father’s anger problems, divorces, and estranged relationship with another of his daughters, who is not testifying at trial.

Paltrow has previously called the lawsuit an attempt to exploit her fame and celebrity.

Owens probed Sanderson’s “obsession” with the case and whether he thought it was “cool” to collide with a celebrity like Paltrow, the Oscar-winning star of “Shakespeare in Love” and founder-CEO of the wellness company, Goop.

Sanderson is expected to testify Friday about the lasting effects of the crash. He has not been present in the courtroom while his doctors and experts have detailed his health problems.

Paltrow could be called to testify on Friday or early next week, when the eight-day trial continues.

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Ramadan food tips: 10 things to eat to prevent fatigue, stay energetic 

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until dusk. The Islamic ritual can be challenging for many and may leave those practicing feeling less energized and weaker during the day.

To avoid feeling sluggish, it is important to consume nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and prevent


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Here are 10 foods that can help you stay energized during Ramadan:

1. Dates: Dates are traditionally consumed to break the fast because they are an excellent source of energy, fiber, and essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. They also contain simple sugars that provide quick energy to the body.

A Saudi farmer displays dates to customers during Unaizah Season for Dates, at Unaizah city in Al-Qassim province, Saudi Arabia August 10, 2021.  (File photo: Reuters)

A Saudi farmer displays dates to customers during Unaizah Season for Dates, at Unaizah city in Al-Qassim province, Saudi Arabia August 10, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

2. Whole grains: Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats are high in complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy throughout the day. They also contain fiber, which slows down digestion, keeping you feeling full for longer.

3. Lentils: Lentils are a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy. They are also rich in iron, which is important for maintaining healthy blood levels.

4. Nuts: Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber, making them an ideal snack for sustained energy. They also contain important vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

A bowl of cereal with toasted peanuts and banana chips, is displayed at the Kellogg's NYC cafe in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, U.S., June 29, 2016. (File photo: Reuters)

A bowl of cereal with toasted peanuts and banana chips, is displayed at the Kellogg's NYC cafe in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, U.S., June 29, 2016. (File photo: Reuters)

5. Yogurt: Yogurt is a good source of protein and calcium, which is important for maintaining strong bones. It also contains probiotics, which can help to improve gut health and boost immunity.

6. Spinach: Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal food for sustained energy.

Fresh spinach displayed in a bowl. (Stock Image)

Fresh spinach displayed in a bowl. (Stock Image)

7. Chicken and fish: Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and tofu are rich in amino acids, which are important for maintaining muscle mass and promoting healthy immune function. They also provide sustained energy throughout the day.

A whole roasted chicken is displayed. (Stock image)

A whole roasted chicken is displayed. (Stock image)

8. Bananas and other fruits: Fruits such as bananas, oranges, and apples are rich in natural sugars and fiber, making them an ideal food for quick energy. They also contain important vitamins and minerals that can help to boost immunity and prevent dehydration.

9. Eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and Vitamin D. Enjoy them scrambled, boiled, or in an omelet with plenty of vegetables to ensure you will stay energized and fuller for longer.

Differently cooked eggs. (Stock Image)

Differently cooked eggs. (Stock Image)

10. Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, Vitamin A, C, and B6. Whether boiled, baked, or air fried, they can be an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates.

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