End of an era: Pearl Harbor veteran dies at 92

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* By Martin B. Cassidy Stamford Advocate *

More than six decades after he took emergency command of the destroyer USS Farragut during the devastating Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. Navy gave 88-year-old Darien resident James Benham credit for his heroic leadership in bringing the vessel to safety amidst a hail of bombs and gunfire.

That morning, with his superior officers ashore overnight, Benham, a 24-year-old Navy ensign, took control for another officer who was incapacitated and steered the ship through a narrow channel to the open sea.

“I saw the rising sun on this plane, we called it the red meatball, flying by. It was a complete shock. I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Benham recalled in 2005 after receiving the Bronze Star medal.

Benham, who moved to Darien in 1950 and may have been the last surviving veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack living in Fairfield County, died Tuesday at his home in Norwalk at age 92 of congestive heart failure, his granddaughter Gina Nichols said.

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