by Kimberly A. Cook (Twitter@ WarriorTales)
The importance of military veteran stories grows with the passing of time. For those who have not experienced combat, military service or being in a war-torn country as a civilian, aid worker or journalist, the catastrophe of war can drift away like a mirage.
December 7, 2016 is the 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines from her crew that day. There were 333 U.S.S. Arizona survivors.
According to the Time Special Edition “Commemorating 75 Years since Pearl Harbor,” seventy-five years later only six of the sailors who survived the sinking are still alive. Four of the five of them hope to be at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial tomorrow to honor their fellow shipmates.
Some Pearl Harbor stories you might not know:
Doris Miller, an African American serving as a Cook Third Class in the segregated U.S. Navy, fought back manning a machine gun he had never been trained on when Japanese planes fired on the U.S.S. West Virginia. Miller received the Navy Cross for his actions. The first African American to receive the Navy Cross, he died in November 1943 when his next ship, the U.S.S. Liscome Bay, was torpedoed and sank.
“In four years at sea, I sat through 78 air attacks, but nothing was as frightening as the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Warren K. Taylor, ensign, U.S.S. Sumner in Time Special Edition.
The U.S.S. Oklahoma lost 429 sailors in the bombing. While being towed to California in 1947 after being lifted from Battleship Row, the ship was lost at sea. In 2007 the National Park Service opened a memorial to the ship and her crew on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.
After the bombing a total of 2,403 were killed or missing, half of them from the U.S.S. Arizona, and 1,178 service members and civilians were injured. All the U.S. casualties from sailors to civilians were listed as noncombatants since the U.S. was not in a state of war with Japan.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Congress passed public law 503 which ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them born in America. There was no due process of law for these United States citizens.
All proceeds from her autobiography, “Wherever You Need Me,” by Anna Busby, go to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Fund. Busby was an Army Second Lieutenant in the Nurse Corps who witnessed the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field from the lanai at Tripler Hospital in Honolulu.
The plaque on the U.S.S. Missouri’s teak deck where the surrender was signed. My Dad’s ship sailed past the Mighty Mo two days after the surrender signing in Tokyo Bay. He was part of the occupation forces first into Japan with the Army Air Corps. After she was discharged from the Marines, my Mom sailed into Tokyo Bay on a Liberty Ship to work as civilian staff for the Army Transportation Department for a year. Mom and Dad both sailed in and out of Pearl Harbor on their deployments.
“It’s so important that Americans don’t forget this day,” Donald Stratton, 94, Seaman First Class, U.S.S. Arizona.
Visit the National Park Service’s World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument web site below.