Today is the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We recall the date known as one which would live in infamy. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII, one in the Pacific. Neither were stationed at Pearl in 1941 but I recently had the pleasure of meeting someone who was not only stationed and serving there but provided medical care to the injured. Ms. Jane was in the Medical Corps at Pearl 80 years ago. She recently attended one of our events and our staff had some time to visit with her and learn about her experiences. She told one of my co-workers that she kissed the forehead of every service member she patched up that day and told them it was to hold them over until they came home to their mothers. Talk about powerful! This young woman serving in a predominantly male military during the ’40s on one of our country’s most horrific days took the time to kiss every forehead. She is a hero!
There are other heroes you may or may not have heard of from December 7, 1941, like Doris Miller a Cook Third Class aboard the USS West Virginia who without weapons training manned a
.50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun. He received the Navy Cross for his actions, the first ever given to an African American, and the future Ford-class supercarrier CVN-81 is to be named after Miller. Miller was killed in 1943 while serving on the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.
Lt. Phil Rasmussen was one of four American pilots able to get in the air and engage Japanese fighters during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the attack was launched, Rasmussen was still in his pajamas when he ran out to the flight line and jumped in a then-old Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighter plane — the only US planes the Japanese hadn't yet taken out. Once in the air, Rasmussen shot down one Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter plane and damaged another before he was targeted by two more. The two Japanese fighters shot up his plane and took out his radio, hydraulic lines, and rudder cables, but he was able to fly away and hide in the clouds before landing without brakes, a rudder, or tailwheel. Rasmussen received the Silver Star for his actions and retired from the Air Force in 1965.
First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox was the head nurse at the hospital at Hickham field, which was Hawaii's main army airfield and bomber base when the attack on Pearl Harbor was launched. Fox "administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, and her fine example of calmness, courage, and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact," according to her Purple Heart medal citation. Fox was the first US servicewoman to receive the Purple Heart, which she received for her actions during the attack. At the time, the US military awarded Purple Hearts for "singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service." When the requirement of being wounded was added, her Purple Heart was replaced with the Bronze Star, since she had not been wounded. Fox was promoted to the rank of major before retiring from the service in 1945.
And, George Walters, a civilian who operated a huge crane next to the USS Pennsylvania battleship at Pearl Harbor. He was 50 feet up in the crane when the attack was launched and was one of the first Americans to see the Japanese planes coming, and alerted the sailors aboard the Pennsylvania. Walters then repeatedly swung the crane back and forth to shield the ship from Japanese fighter planes as US sailors aboard the Pennsylvania attempted to return fire. But the sailors manning the guns on the battleship had trouble seeing the Japanese planes because they were in dry dock. "The water had been pumped out, dropping their decks to a point where the high sides of the drydock blocked most of the view," author Walter Lord wrote in his book "Day of Infamy." So Walters used the crane's boom to point out incoming Japanese planes. "After a 500-pound bomb exploded nearby, damaging the crane and stunning Walters, he nearly fell from the crane. But Walters had moved the crane just in time to avoid a direct hit from the bomb, which left a 17-foot crater," according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Walters has since been credited by many with helping save the ship. He operated cranes until 1950 and retired in 1966.
These are but a few of the Heroes from that day, there are hundreds of thousands more. To honor all who served that day eighty years ago I challenge you to learn more about the real Americans like Ms. Jane, Doris, and George who served and tell your children.
May God bless America and all who have served along with their families.
With deep gratitude,