'I had a good cry': Pinehurst man recalls Pearl Harbor survival
Posted December 7, 2016
Pinehurst, N.C. — A local survivor of Pearl Harbor has spent a lifetime making sure people don't forget the terror that killed so many of his comrades.
Roy "Swede" Boreen, 96, escaped a ship where more than 440 sailors were killed. He has lived in Pinehurst for more than 30 years, and Wednesday the community rallied around him in tribute.
At age 21, Boreen prepared to die a terrible death, coated in oil, bobbing in sea water. Minutes earlier, he'd looked out a porthole aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma.
“In fact, I could see the pilot’s face. He was grinning like a possum eating you know what,” Boreen said.
The first of nine torpedoes bombarded the Oklahoma. The second struck the fuel tank, bathing him in black oil.
Water gushed down the hatch, and he had to make his way up to the main deck.
“And I looked up, and two sailors were getting ready to close the main deck hatch. And I said hold it, we’re coming up,” Boreen said.
The ship was listing badly and finally capsized. Boreen managed to jump off, into the water.
“I could see these planes coming over like this, like a flock of ducks,” he said.
He watched in horror, knowing hundreds of his shipmates, only in their 20s, were dying. Rescued by the battleship Maryland, the young sailor got dry clothes and a cigarette.
“I couldn’t hold the tears back. I had a good cry,” Boreen said.
He said he is honored when young people stop to say thank you. What makes him smile is a gathering like the one in Pinehurst, where the flag flies and the anthem stirs something deep.
Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo described him as a unique individual to the area.
“We have good people, gifted people and God knows so many famous people. But very, very few are great,” she said.
Boreen said every year for the Pearl Harbor anniversary, he writes a letter to his two local newspapers to remind people of the tragedy and how America triumphed.