Los Angeles, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — Ray Chavez, the oldest U.S. military survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, died Wednesday. He was 106.
Chavez, who had been battling pneumonia, died in his sleep in the San Diego suburb of Poway, his daughter, Kathleen Chavez, told The Associated Press.
As recently as last May he had traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was honored on Memorial Day by President Donald Trump. The White House Tweeted a statement Wednesday saying it was saddened to hear of his passing.
"We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year," the statement said. "Thank you for your service to our great nation, Ray!"
Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the National Park Service at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, confirmed Wednesday that Chavez was the oldest survivor of the attack that killed 2,335 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.
"I still feel a loss," Chavez said during 2016 ceremonies marking the attack's 75th anniversary. "We were all together. We were friends and brothers. I feel close to all of them."
Hours before the attack, he was aboard the minesweeper USS Condor as it patrolled the harbor's east entrance when he and others saw the periscope of a Japanese submarine. They notified a destroyer that sunk it shortly before Japanese bombers arrived to strafe the harbor.
By then Chavez, who had worked through the early morning hours, had gone to his nearby home to sleep, ordering his wife not to wake him because he had been up all night.
"It seemed like I only slept about 10 minutes when she called me and said, 'We're being attacked,' " he recalled in 2016. "And I said, 'Who is going to attack us?' "
"She said, 'The Japanese are here, and they're attacking everything.' "
He ran back to the harbor to find it in flames.
Chavez would spend the next week there, working around the clock sifting through the destruction that had crippled the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet.
Later he was assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.
Although never wounded, he left the military in 1945 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that left him anxious and shaking.
Returning to San Diego, where he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outdoors, a healthy diet and a strict workout program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his health.
"He loved trees and he dearly loved plants and he knew everything about a plant or tree that you could possibly want to know," his daughter said Wednesday with a chuckle. "And he finally retired when he was 95."
Still, he would not talk about Pearl Harbor for decades. Then, on a last-minute whim, he decided to return to Hawaii in 1991 for ceremonies marking the attack's 50th anniversary.
"Then we did the 55th, the 60th, the 65th and the 70th, and from then on we went to every one," his daughter recalled, adding that until Chavez's health began to fail he had planned to attend this year's gathering next month.
Born March 12, 1912, in San Bernardino, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Chavez moved to San Diego as a child, where his family ran a wholesale flower business. He joined the Navy in 1938.
In his later years, as he became well known as the attack's oldest military survivor, he'd be approached at memorial services and other events and asked for his autograph or to pose for pictures. He always maintained that those events were not about him, however, but about those who gave their lives.
"He'd just shrug his shoulders and shake his head and say, 'I was just doing my job,' " said his daughter. "He was just a very nice, quiet man. He never hollered about anything, and he was always pleasant to everybody."
Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His daughter is his only survivor.
Funeral services are pending.
London, Nov 21 (AP/UNB) — British Prime Minister Theresa May is flying to Brussels to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to finalize a Brexit agreement between the U.K. and the European Union.
The two sides agreed last week on a document sealing the terms of Britain's departure, but are still working to nail down agreement on future relations.
EU leaders are due to meet Sunday to rubber-stamp the deal, but sticking points remain. Spain has said it will vote against if Gibraltar's future isn't considered a bilateral issue between Madrid and London.
May is under intense pressure from pro-Brexit and pro-EU British lawmakers opposing the divorce deal.
Before leaving for Brussels, she will face opponents of the agreement Wednesday during the prime minister's weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.
Berlin, Nov 21 (AP/UNB) — Chancellor Angela Merkel says it's in Germany's interest to support a U.N. agreement on migration that countries such as the United States, Hungary and Poland have rejected.
Merkel told lawmakers Wednesday that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration would ensure many of the conditions that already exist in Germany.
German officials hope the non-binding pact, due to be approved next month in Marrakech, Morocco, will reduce the flow of migrants to Germany by ensuring that they can expect humane conditions elsewhere, too.
Merkel used her budget speech to emphasize the importance of international cooperation, noting that Germany owes its revival after World War II in part to multilateral institutions such as the European Union and the United Nations.
Berlin, Nov 21 (AP/UNB)— German police have conducted a large-scale anti-terror drill at Cologne-Bonn airport, in the west of the country, amid ongoing concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremists.
Some 1,000 officers took part in the exercise early Wednesday, which took into account insight from attacks in neighboring Belgium and France to be as realistic as possible.
The scenario involved a group of extremists with military training seeking to cause as many civilian casualties as possible.
German news agency dpa reported that that drill involved a mix of regular police officers and special operations units, as well as 300 actors representing members of the public.
Two years ago, a Tunisian man drove a hijacked truck into a busy Berlin Christmas market, an attack that claimed 12 lives.
Dubai, Nov 21 (AP/UNB)— South Korea's Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol's president on Wednesday, edging out a longtime veteran of Russia's security services who was strongly opposed by the U.S., Britain and other European nations.
Kim's election was seen as a victory for the White House and its European partners, who had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuk's attempts to be named the next president of the policing organization.
The U.S. and others expressed concern that if Russia's candidate had been elected, it would lead to further Kremlin abuses of Interpol's red notice system to go after political opponents and fugitive dissidents.
Russia accused its critics of running a "campaign to discredit" their candidate, calling Prokopchuk a respected professional.
Kim's win means he secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at Interpol's general assembly in Dubai on Wednesday. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China as part of a wide anti-corruption sweep there.
Kim, a police official in South Korea, was serving as interim president after Meng's departure from the post and was senior vice president at Interpol.
Russia's Interior Ministry said after the vote that Prokopchuk, who is one of three vice presidents at Interpol, will continue his role in that position.
Most of Interpol's 194 member-countries attended the organization's annual assembly this year, which was held in an opulent Dubai hotel along the Persian Gulf coast.
Interpol was facing a pivotal moment in its history as delegates decided whether to hand its presidency to Prokopchuk or Kim, who were the only two candidates vying for the post.
Based in the French city of Lyon, the 95-year-old policing body is best known for issuing "red notices" that identify suspects pursued by other countries, effectively putting them on the world's "most-wanted" list.
Critics say countries like Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and China have used the system to try to round up political opponents, journalists or activists, even though its rules prohibit the use of police notices for political reasons.
The agency faced criticism two years ago when Interpol's member-states approved Meng as president for a four-year term. Amnesty International has criticized "China's longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad."
In 2016, Interpol introduced new measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red notice system. As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts first check a notice's compliance with Interpol rules and regulations before it goes out. Interpol also says it enhanced the work of an appeals body for those targeted with red notices.
Still, member countries can issue requests, known as diffusions, directly to other countries using Interpol's communication system, without going through the centralized Interpol vetting that's in place for red notices. Watchdog groups have urged Interpol to reform the diffusion system too.
Bill Browder, who runs an investment fund that had once operated in Moscow, says Russia used the diffusion system against him, which led to his brief arrest in Spain earlier this year.
Browder and another prominent Kremlin critic warned Tuesday that electing Prokopchuk— who has ties to President Vladimir Putin— would have undermined the international law enforcement agency and politicized police cooperation across borders. Prokopchuk was in charge of facilitating Interpol warrants on behalf of Russia.
A day before the Interpol vote, the White House came out publicly against the election of Prokopchuk, with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying "the Russian government abuses Interpol's processes to harass its political opponents." He said the U.S. "strongly endorses" Kim.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was encouraging all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol to choose a leader with credibility and integrity. "We believe Mr. Kim will be just that," he said.
Russia, however, secured a win for its ally Serbia on Tuesday when Kosovo's bid to join Interpol failed to garner enough votes at the general assembly in Dubai. The move would have boosted Kosovo's efforts at recognition of its statehood. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.