When Julio DeCastro, a civilian worker at Pearl Harbor’s naval yard, reached the capsized U.S.S. Oklahoma on the infamous morning of December 7, 1941, he heard the sound of frenetic tapping of sailors trapped within the hull. Hours earlier, during a surprise assault on the Honolulu military base, Japanese forces had bombarded the American battleship with torpedoes, sending it rolling onto its side with more than 450 men still below deck.
Over the next two days, DeCastro, a caulker and chipper, labored almost nonstop in a valiant effort to reach the imperiled seamen. The Hawaii native and his fellow naval yard workers ultimately rescued 32 members of the vessel’s crew—an act of bravery cited in “Infamy: Pearl Harbor Remembered,” a new exhibition at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans marking the 80th anniversary of the attack .