Local WWII veteran dies at 97

Elmer Luckett was 97.

Elmer Luckett, a local World War II veteran, has died. His family said he was 97.

Luckett's visitation is scheduled for Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon at Kutis Funeral Home in Affton with services immediately following.

Below is a story we did with Luckett in December of 2016.

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ST. LOUIS – Elmer Luckett is well into his 90's, but his mind is like a steel trap.

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The World War II veteran from south St. Louis County can still recall specific dates and locations from the time of his Navy service. And one date often holds more powerful memories than the rest.

December 7, 1941.

“We'd been on patrol for a week, and I wanted to get some letters sent back home.”

Luckett was stationed in Pearl Harbor, aboard the U.S.S. Chew. He’d joined the Navy Reserve one year before, and was soon called to active duty. Luckett arrived in Hawaii in early 1941, where he first worked in the mess hall. He was soon promoted to a Petty Officer Machinist Mate.

On the morning of December 7th, Luckett had just dropped off his mail and was standing with a shipmate drinking coffee.

“While we were chatting, my buddy noticed a lot of smoke coming off of Ford Island. And he said – ‘Bud, there must be a big fire or something over there.’”

The two soon realized more was coming.

“By the time he got that out of his mouth… the Japanese planes were coming in. The dive bombers, the torpedo plans. Just all hell broke loose within a few seconds.”

Luckett said his ship wasn’t far from “battleship row.”

“I remember the last thing that I saw before I went down into the engine room was when the [U.S.S.] Arizona got bombed and it just blew it [up]. It was the most tremendous explosion. And it really, really shook you up,” he said.

The attack launched the US into World War II. In the months after, Luckett's ship patrolled for Japanese submarines.

“A lot of people participate in wars. Very few have the circumstances that allow them to see a war start.”

Luckett remained in the Navy for five more years, until the war ended.

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He returned to St. Louis in 1945 and soon started a new career and a family.

When asked about the proudest moments of his service, Luckett replied,

“I’m proud of the fact that I served my country faithfully for five years.”

Luckett has returned to Pearl Harbor many times for ceremonies honoring veterans and marking the anniversary of the attack. Even at 96 years old, he remains active in a local American Legion Post and lives in the same house where he raised a family.