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Gerard Barbosa dies; gunner’s mate survived Pearl Harbor attack

Pearl Harbor survivor Gerard Barbosa died Friday, Sept.

Pearl Harbor survivor Gerard Barbosa died Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, of natural causes at his daughter's home in Westbury. He was 93. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Gerard Barbosa, a gunner’s mate who survived Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that pulled the United States into World War II and later served during the Normandy invasion that helped bring the war to a close, died Friday at his daughter’s Westbury home.

Barbosa, 93, succumbed to natural causes. He was a 17-year-old sailor aboard the Navy cruiser USS Raleigh on Dec. 7, 1941, when swarms of Japanese planes appeared in the sky over Hawaii, their guns ablaze.

During a Newsday interview last year for an article on the 75th anniversary of the infamous air raid, Barbosa, who was born in Brooklyn, recalled racing to take a position at a deck-mounted antiaircraft gun.

“Bullets were bouncing all around us and hitting the bulkhead as we ran,” Barbosa said. “I don’t know how I didn’t get hit. Someone must have been watching over us.”

“My loader said, ‘Ain’t you scared?,” Barbosa recalled. “I said ‘Damned right I’m scared. I was shaking. But I said I’m going to get those sons of a gun. I told him, make sure I have enough ammunition.”

At the time of the attack, Barbosa’s ship was docked at berth F-12, which was a principal target because it was normally occupied by an aircraft carrier that happened to have been delayed at sea.

Barbosa said he felt a violent explosion, which the ship’s commanding officer later reported was a torpedo that had pierced the ship’s No. 2 engine room.

“It felt like the ship lifted out of the water,” Barbosa said. “I just ran to my gun and all I wanted to know is that the ammunition kept coming.”

Barbosa and other crewmembers fired a total of 13,526 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition that morning, the Raleigh’s commanding officer wrote in a report six days later.

“The guns were magnificently handled; all hands from chief petty officers to mess boys volunteering to fill out the regular gun crews and keep ammunition supplied,” he wrote.

“The gun crews on the top side kept up a heavy and accurate fire. Five bombing planes which this ship had under fire and on which hits were observed, were seen to crash close aboard, either in flames or in fragments.”

But the air raid had been devastating. In a two-hour flash, more than 2,400 American military personnel and civilians were killed, and 21 American warships were sunk or damaged.

Nonetheless, the attack persuaded Congress to drop its isolationist leanings, and to press forward toward making the United States a world power.

Barbosa also served on D-Day, supplying American troops at Normandy’s Omaha Beach as a crew member aboard the LST 157 landing craft, and ferrying German prisoners to England.

After the war, he worked as an electrician in the aviation industry, including a stint with Grumman Aircraft during which he worked on the Lunar Lander. He retired as a New York City Transit Authority electrician in 1990.

Fred Schnettler, chaplain at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2736 in East Meadow, where Barbosa was a frequent presence, described him as an affable man who was quick with a joke.

“He was a .... nice guy, Schnettler said.

In addition to his daughter, Bonnie Barbosa, he is survived by a son, Gerard Barbosa, of Massapequa. The elder Barbosa’s wife Marie died in May. His twin brother George, of Brooklyn, died in March.

A viewing is scheduled for Tuesday at Donohue Cecere funeral home in Westbury from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Wednesday at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Westbury.

Barbosa will be buried at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale, where his wife is interred.

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