MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings fans cheered for many moments during Sunday's dramatic win over the Jets, but one of the most proud ovations was for a 91-year-old survivor of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Retired Navy SC1 Richard Thill, of St. Paul, was recognized during the Soldier Salute. A video tribute to survivors was shown before Thill was shown standing in the east end zone. The crowd at TCF Bank Stadium responded by giving Thill a standing ovation.
"That was outstanding," Thill said when he spoke to media after he was recognized. "I've got a lot of people from work watching that that are going to be really impressed because I worked for the power company for 40 years and about 10 or 12 of us have breakfast every Wednesday morning."
Thill, who is president and chaplain of the Minnesota Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, also on Sunday attended an annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony before attending the game.
Thill joined the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1940 and was called to active duty in January 1941. He was assigned to the 80th Destroyer Division on board the USS Ward in the Territory of Hawaii. Thill and the ship's crew were on patrol the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when it fired the first American shots of World War II that sunk a Japanese submarine that was in restricted waters about an hour before an aerial assault by Japanese forces began bombing.
"We had two planes coming side by side and I was on a World War I ship built in 1918, so we had a lot of old-fashioned stuff on there," Thill recalled. "We didn't have any anti-aircraft weapons. We had two machine guns, but they jammed up on us because we were using World War I ammunition and were about 20 years behind the times. They were very close to us, flying side by side. We're only about 30 feet wide, and they had to have a certain distance between each other to keep from banging. One dropped the bomb on one side, and the other dropped the bomb on the other side. Thank God we were missed on both sides. That was a lucky thing for us."
The Vikings also honored National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day with a trumpet performance of the National Anthem by Manny Laureano and with a pre-game flyover by World War II era aircraft that included a B-25 bomber and five T-6 training planes. Veterans Roger Rand, of North Oaks, Minn., Jim Carroll, of Bloomington, Minn., and former Vikings Hall of Fame Coach Bud Grant were passengers in the B-25.