Chicago lost a hero Thursday, as Navy veteran Joseph Triolo died at his home in Zion.
Triolo was one of the region’s last survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Born in Monaville West Virginia, he enlisted in the Navy in 1937. Initially assigned to the USS Oklahoma, Triolo had transitioned to a seaplane tender, the USS Tangier, where he saw the attack on Pearl unfold on Dec. 7, 1941.
Ironically, even though Triolo was on a ship that survived the attack, he watched in horror as his former ship, the Oklahoma, was torpedoed and capsized, killing over 400 sailors. Most were trapped inside the hull, unable to escape.
“The Oklahoma was like a home to me and my brother!” Triolo recalled to NBC 5 in 2015, reflecting on the horror that men he had known were trapped inside. “And that haunts me to this day, to think of those people. They found out that some of them had been there for a week or so, alive!”
On the Tangier, Triolo manned a machine gun, firing on Japanese planes as they pounded American ships with torpedoes in the unrelenting attack. The Tangier was credited with three aircraft kills that day.
“I saw the Utah, the minute it was hit,” he recently recalled. “It started leaning.”
Rick Miller, who coordinates Pearl Harbor remembrance services every year on the North Shore, hosted Triolo at the service last month and knew him well. For Miller, the loss was especially heartbreaking.
“How many times have you heard me say that one day we will wake up and these guys will be gone?” he asked. “Today is that day for me.”
Triolo died just short of his 98th birthday. Services will be held Tuesday at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in North Chicago.