We always remember Pearl Harbor at our house. That’s my wife’s dad in that pic, pipe-pointing to his battle station 76 mornings ago today, Sunday December 7th, 1941 on the U.S.S. Arizona (BB39), in the aft tower, or “mainmast”. If you’ve ever been to the National Park Service’s excellent memorial, it’d be right about where the American flag flies now.
His job up there was to strap on a sound-powered headset, grab some binoculars, and spot where the shells from the big guns went. Of course they weren’t firing the big guns that day, because the Japanese were using airplanes and they didn’t want to shell Honolulu and Waikiki. When a Japanese bomb pierced the deck and exploded in a powder magazine, the front 2/3 of the ship was completely obliterated. Being a newly-trained Navy Boot, he carefully folded his socks and lined his shoes up neatly before abandoning ship as ordered to swim under the burning oil to safety. It was two days before they allowed survivors to mail the cryptic card in the pic below, some families didn’t find out what had happened to their sailors and marines for months. Every Dec. 7th we think of how lucky we were that he was lucky, and of the 1,117 of his shipmates who didn’t make it that day.
335 Sailors and Marines survived the attack 75 years ago today, including about 40 who had a lucky excuse to be off the ship. Oree Weller left us in ’93 after a long career in the postwar Navy and then Boeing, you can read his Peal Harbor story here. As of this writing, there are 5 Arizona crewmen still with us, but all are too old now to make the trip to Hawaii for today’s ceremonies.