December 7 — Pearl Harbor
Dad won the Texas State High School Championship as a clarinetist, then joined the Navy in 1938 as a musician. In peacetime, he played the clarinet and saxophone in the ship’s band. But in battle, he was an intra-ship radioman assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown CV-5.
Dad was a Texan, as was Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, and often told me of battles in Texas history. Stories we read without emotion in history books became events bathed in blood and tears when Dad told them. If you’re not a Texan, Remember Goliad! and Remember the Alamo! could mean almost nothing to you. But it arouses emotions in my mind because my dad was a Texan! No, he didn’t fight at Goliad in 1835 or at the Alamo in 1836, but he made sure that I, his oldest son, knew about them.
Dad didn’t join the Navy to kill people. He didn’t even want to go to war. As a nine-year-old boy, when he had the privilege of seeing John Philip Souza in south Texas on Souza’s last tour with the United States Marine Band, he was inspired and dedicated himself to music. Becoming an award-winning musician, he wanted to join the United States Navy Band. Although fighting a war was not on his radar screen, personal plans and goals don’t always develop to our liking. In this case, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and that changed the lives of nearly every American.
Built from 1934-1936 and commissioned in 1937, the USS Yorktown CV-5 was involved in some major battles in WWII and received the nickname of The Fighting Lady.
In 1999, Dad wrote a book titled “God Was at Midway.” Its second edition was titled “The USS Yorktown at Midway.” Dad passed away in 2010, so my brother Paul and I reissued its third edition under the title “Dead in the Water.”
In the preface, Dad wrote (in 1999), “It was more than half a century ago that I stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and gazed in awe at the recent destruction of Pearl Harbor.”
Dad said in chapter 4, “On February 6, just two months after the infamous Japanese attack, we sailed into Pearl Harbor for the first time since the beginning of the war. Hundreds of sailors manned the rails on the flight deck.
“As we rounded the bend of the ship channel and approached Ford Island, we got the surprise and shock of our lives — a sight we could not believe and would never forget. For the first time, we looked at the incredible destruction of Pearl Harbor.
“The sailors, normally a happy and jovial group on entering port, could only stare in stunned silence as they viewed the scene. This was not the way we remembered Pearl Harbor or the great American fleet.
“No one felt like talking; there was nothing to say. Emotions were stirred. All of the crew members stood rigidly silent as we viewed the devastation … Battleship Row was in total disarray, for eight U.S. Navy battleships had been bombed, torpedoed, and sunk at their piers. Oil, many inches thick, covered the water from the leaking hulls of the ships that had been torpedoed, and they were still leaking. Trash and debris covered the surface of the water.
“Many men, trying to escape the fires and shrapnel, [had] leaped screaming into fiery, oily water only to perish in so doing. When rescue crews tried to save these men from the flaming water, it was found that one out of three was already dead.” (Dead in the Water, Paul Linzey, 2021.)
Dad didn’t talk much about the war but, when he did, I listened with rapt attention. Because of that, I can tell many of his stories as though I had been there. The circumstances he endured shaped his life, but his stories and his influence shaped mine.
Most Americans couldn’t identify with Pearl Harbor Day until the infamous 9-11 attack on September 11, 2001. In both events, the United States was hit with a surprise attack in the morning. There was no prior declaration of war. In Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 Americans died. In New York on 9-11, over 2,900 Americans died.
We do not hate the Japanese and should not hate Muslims. But it is foolish to ignore history. We must remain vigilant to preserve liberty and freedom against any enemy, both at home and abroad.