Couple remembers Pearl Harbor together (with photos)

By Matt Porter

  • Click to enlarge

    James and Esther Carson married in 1941 before James left for Pearl Harbor. His wife followed shortly after.

7 photos

December 6, 2013 Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 7:46 PM EDT

East Branch, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Although she can no longer see the photo of herself dressed in a lei and grass skirt, 98-year-old Esther Carson can remember the time she spent with her husband James in the Hawaiian Islands.

"I taught him how to dance, and he was good at it," Esther Carson said. "He learned real easy."

She and her husband married in March 1941 in Reno, Nevada before James was sent to Pearl Harbor by the Navy.

Life was easy when they arrived, they spent hours walking the island each day.

"Everybody had to drive," Esther Carson said. "So everybody stopped to make sure we knew what we were doing when we were walking."

But on December 7, 1941, life changed in Hawaii forever.

"I looked out the window and saw the puffs of smoke weren't white anymore, they were black," Esther Carson said. "And so I knew I had to get him something to eat because he'd have to be going."

A navy radio man for the USS Thornton, James rushed to duty.

"When it was announced on the radio that's what happened, I said I've got to get dressed and get back to the ship," James Carson said.

When he got to the base, he couldn't believe what he saw.

"It was pure chaos." he said, "The Arizona had been hit so many times, it couldn't get under way."

For four days after the attack, the honeymooners were separated until Esther finally saw her husband in the town of Hilo.

"First time I'd seen him since the beginning, but then he said he didn't know when he'd see me again," Esther Carson said.

When the military evacuated the island, Esther took a job in the Navy offices.

She approached one of the heads of the personnel department.

"I told him I wanted to stay, he made sure I knew what I was getting into, and so he let me stay," she said.

She wanted to be as close as she could to her man.

Her husband who sailed out to the Aleutians, Midway, and Solomon Islands knew each trip could be his last.

He kept thoughts of his wife with him always.

"Your mind is never off the one you love, you know," James Carson said.

Seventy-two years later the couple remain together and live in East Branch.

"I'm happy she's been able to tolerate me," James Carson said as he hugged his wife tightly.

The Carsons are a couple not even war could split apart.

They celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary in March 2014.