Location: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it “a day which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941.  In 2012, Seventy-one years later, few of this generation know why December 7th is a special day of remembrance.

It was our parents and grandparents equivalent to the horrors and anger we experienced on September 11, 2001 at the destruction of the World Trade Center twin-towers.  In an early morning raid, thousands of American military servicemen lost their lives in a Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and other military installations on Oahu, Hawaii, which served as the catalyst for the United States entry into WWII.

I have a special connection to this event for my father was already a seasoned sailor in the last year of his first Navy enlistment in December 1941.  He was serving aboard the fast destroyer, USS Gridley (DD-380), steaming with Task Force -8, under the command of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, escorting the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise which had been tasked with ferrying Marine Corps aircraft to Wake Island.  They had departed their home-base on November 28, off loaded the planes at Wake Island on December 4, and were returning to Pearl Harbor when the Japanese struck on December 7, 1941.

Located approximately 200-miles west of the island of Oahu, the thirteen war ships of TF-8 stoked their boilers to flank speed and went to General Quarters upon notification the attack was in progress, steaming full throttle to Pearl Harbor.  They arrived at Pearl the following day, December 8th, and were greeted by the sights of destruction and carnage which a day earlier had been the US Pacific Fleet.  While the Gridley refueled and took on provisions, my father and other crew members were assigned to a working party task with recovering dead bodies of their fellow sailors floating in the oily waters of the harbor.

These are his most vivid memories of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  They would pull the burned and mangled bodies from the water and wrap them in a mattress cover.  Dole Pineapple had built a narrow track railroad from their warehouse to the docks, and the corpses would be placed on the flat cars and pushed back to the warehouse which had been converted into a makeshift morgue.  The working party labored at this into the night.  The following day they steamed back out of Pearl Harbor to begin patrolling that would keep them at sea for many months to come.

Pearl Harbor Day commemorates these men who gave their all in the service of our country.  Stop a moment and give thanks for the sacrifices made to keep us free in past generations, and take time to educate the coming generation as to the events which make this a special day of remembrance.




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