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Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Doyle dies
Posted on April 02, 2017

World War II

By MONTE WHALEY | | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: March 30, 2017 at 3:39 pm | UPDATED: March 31, 2017 at 8:25 am

Jim Doyle, one of the last remaining survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Tuesday at St. Anthony Hospital in Denver. He was 93.

Doyle captured some of the most enduring images of the attack on film. He later came under fire again while flying as an aviation photographer’s mate 1st Class during the fight in the Pacific.

For his bravery, he was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Yet he rarely, if ever, talked about the war with this three sons and daughter, said Doyle’s wife, Sue.

“He never talked to his kids about it, never,” Sue Doyle said. “It’s just something he kept to himself.”

He was proud of his fishing prowess and his paintings. Doyle worked as an artist for the U.S. Geological Survey before he retired and kept an art studio at the Doyles’ Lakewood home.

He also immersed himself in reading and had just finished three books just before he died, Sue Doyle said.

“He was a voracious reader, the library was just wonderful and they sent him books through the mail,” she said.

Besides his family, Doyle’s constant companion over the last few years was an overweight, tail-less cat dubbed Phat Cat.

“He would sit in his chair every morning, and eat his hot oatmeal and he had to have his milk so he could feed his ridiculous cat,” Sue Doyle said. “He and the cat were inseparable. The cat would follow him around like a guard dog.”

Doyle learned to fly a crop duster while on the Meeker ranch where he grew up. He enlisted in the Navy when was 16 years old, because his family could not afford to send him to college.

Doyle was quartered in a hangar on the west side of Pearl Harbor when he heard explosions on the morning of Dec. 7.

He went outside and saw a sky filled with aircraft, many flying nearly at street level. He saw battleships go up in flames and heard screams from the dying and wounded.

The smells from the charred bodies of dead sailors, soldiers and others floating in the water were among his worst memories.

“Oil and slime were all over their bodies,” Doyle told the Denver Post in 2015. “It was something I will never get out of my mind.”

Doyle grabbed a camera and took photos of the attack and aftermath. Some of his photos are still considered the most iconic of Pearl Harbor.

During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Doyle was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. He flew back and landed on the Lexington during the fight but as it sank, Doyle had to abandon ship.

Later, while ferrying planes to Guadalcanal, enemy planes shot him down. He didn’t remember much of that experience, only that Marines braved enemy fire to rescue him. He later woke up in a hospital in Brisbane, Australia.

Doyle was given a medical discharge in 1943, “and I was sent home with a silver plate in my head,” Doyle told The Post.

Back home in Colorado, Doyle fished the lakes in the summer and skied during the winter. While working as a ski instructor, he met Sue.

“Oh, he was handsome,” Sue Doyle said. “And he was charming.”

They married Aug. 15, 1955.

“I know he wanted to live more if he could,” she said. “He loved life, and we had a good life together.”

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