December 7, 1941At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dad was a 19-year-old seaman first class and Coxswain in charge of a forty-foot liberty motor launch of the USS Raleigh. According to some of his shipmates, he had just returned from taking a load of "whitehats" to the liberty dock in the Navy Yard and had brought back some others off shore leave.
His breakfast was probably just a bowl of cereal, some milk and coffee. I like to think that he was thinking about his high school sweetheart and the recently purchased engagement ring he had stashed in his locker below deck. I'm sure he was full of anticipation of when he would be back home and be able to pop the question.
Then about 7:55 a.m., on December 7, 1941, the first torpedo in the assault on Pearl Harbor hit the USS Raleigh. The blast threw him down a stairway to another deck.
Waiting for NewsMom remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio at home. The news back then wasn't as quick and thorough as it is today. It would be three days of worry before she heard that my grandmother finally received a telegram telling her that Dad was okay.
After the Initial AttackDad was assigned right away to retrieve the bodies of crew members who had been blown off the ships. There are reports that the carnage in the murky, oily harbor looked like logs and was a horrible sight. I've been told that lines were attached to the bodies so they could be towed to a retrievable area. Then they would bag them or put minimal parts of cadavers into other containers. It must have been a nightmarish job.
The Marriage ProposalIt was around three weeks before Dad was able to retrieve the engagement ring. The USS Raleigh returned to the states for repairs and arrived in San Franciso on March 1, 1942. Dad proposed to Mom on April 2, 1942. It looks like he didn't waste any time in proposing once he had a chance to hold her again.
MemoriesAs a child, I was fascinated by a small piece of metal in my mother's jewelry box. Mom said that it was fragment from the first Japanese plane shot down in the attack. I thought the story of Mom's engagement ring being "sunk" at Pearl Harbor was really neat. I didn't understand why Dad didn't want to talk about it.
Family of Origin IssuesMost of us have family stories and family of origin issues that can impact our marriages. When our son Ken was called back into the Army during the Desert Storm conflict, I was very difficult to live with. I kept Bob at a distance and hid my feelings and thoughts. When Bob and I visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor a few years later, I understood more fully why Dad wouldn't watch television shows or movies about Pearl Harbor or didn't want to talk about that time in his life. The horror and pandemonium of that day was something I don't think he ever forgot.
Looking at the place where the Raleigh was moored so long ago, and watching as people of all nationalities threw leis upon the water covering the USS Arizona, I experienced a deep closeness with Dad. Although it had been nearly 25 years since his death, I could feel his presence and his love.