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Robert Erly, Navy rear admiral and Pearl Harbor survivor, dies at 100

Robert Erly, a retired Navy rear admiral (upper half) who was a decorated survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died July 31 at a hospital in San Diego. He was 100.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said a niece, Clare Crawford-Mason.

On Dec. 7, 1941, then-Navy Lt. j.g. Erly was aboard the destroyer USS Cassin at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii when the attack by Japanese aircraft brought the United States into World War II.

As bombs fell on the Cassin, the destroyer USS Downes and the battleship USS Pennsylvania -- all of which were together in dry dock -- Erly organized a firefighting squad on the burning ships, his family said.

They hosed down torpedoes and depth charges aboard the ships to curtail additional explosions and limit further damage.

The three ships were repaired after the attack and returned to duty.

Erly received a Navy Commendation Medal with a combat "V" device.

Robert Broussard Erly was born in Washington and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1937.

In the war years after Pearl Harbor, he served aboard destroyers in the Atlantic and the Pacific. During the Korean War, he commanded the destroyer USS James C. Owens, which in May 1952 exchanged fire with enemy shore batteries. For this action, he received a Bronze Star.

Erly's later duties included assignments to Cuba, Venezuela and the Pentagon. He also served as deputy chief of staff to the commander of the Atlantic Fleet.

In 1974, he retired from the Navy after serving in command positions with allied naval forces in Portugal. His other decorations included four awards of the Legion of Merit. In retirement, he lived in Coronado, California.

Survivors include his wife of nine years, Thea Wallace Erly of Coronado; a sister; and a brother.

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