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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

Pearl Harbor Burns: 1941

Pearl Harbor Burns: 1941

December 1941. "Pearl Harbor burns at Mare Island Navy Yard, California." Color transparency by J.R. Eyerman, Life photo archive. View full size.

Reminds me of my grandfather

The medic in the above picture "Pearl Harbor Burns" reminds me of my Grampa Russ! It couldn't be him though because his service began sometime in 1943 or 1944. He served as a Navy Seaman 1st Class on the Destroyer ship DD-390 Ralph Talbot a.k.a. "The Rat Trap". Here he is in his uniform. I love this photo! Miss you grampa!

Russell Petersdorf (Russ Petersdorf)

True Love

There was a guy in my Army barracks that had a tattoo on on his right upper arm. It consisted of a heart circled completely by a floral design. A space was left below the heart and above the lower part of the floral design. It was an oblong box where he intended to engrave the name of his one true love, should he ever find her. It sort of reminded me of a doorbell.

Other side of the story.

My fiancee's grandfather was on the other side of this story. He was a Japanese pilot during the war, and was present at the bombing of Pearl. I remember her telling me that he wouldn't talk about the attack with the family, and just would divert the subject and move on when asked. It wasn't until a couple years before he died that he finally opened up and explained. Interestingly it came after a trip to the Arizona memorial that he decided to tell his story.

According to him, the Japanese pilots weren't told that it was a "sneak" attack until after it had happened. While many of the pilots and crews cheered the attack as being a success, some, such as her grandfather, were saddened by it. He told how his bomb aimer was so distraught that he had dishonored his family's name that the man committed suicide with his own service revolver.

He went on to add that after the attack, the Kempei Tai (secret military police) went around and questioned all those who had shown disloyalty to the emperor by doubting the attack. It was a thinly veiled threat to keep quiet or else. Luckily for him though, he was injured in a crash on the carrier deck and medically discharged as being unfit for service.

Speaking with her, we've often wondered if his crash may not have been a failed suicide attempt.

Do Ask

When I was younger, I knew my great-uncle was in the Navy in the Pacific war but that was all I knew since he didn't talk about it much. If he spoke of his Navy days it was only in the context of his eventual shore duty as a recruiter.

It was only after he died (and I got more interested in family history) that I found out he was a boatswain on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor. A little research uncovered he was even written up in the battle report.

So, while I was standing right next to someone who was there to see it all and who was drawn right into the middle of it, I was to young/stupid to take advantage of the proximity. By the time I got "smart" enough to get interested and inquire, it was too late to ask.

For those of you still with the chance to, take advantage of the opportunity and "ask."

Dad at Pearl Harbor

They will never be forgotten. Dad was there that day in December on the USS Curtiss AV-4. A seaplane tender anchored off Ford Island. His ship was hit hard by dive bombers with one crashing into one of her cranes. A bomb went through about three decks and exploded when it hit a huge reel of steel cable used to outfit the cranes on board. He told me that if it hadn't hit that reel of steel cable the next deck down was where the aviation fuel was stored for the PBY's they refueled!! His ship was awarded seven battle stars during the war. Dad died in 2005 a proud husband and father of six. We miss him.

Cool & Refreshing

I have talked to a few sailors that were burned in Pearl and they all said one thing about what this sailor is doing. "The salt water and iodine spray hurts like hell the first time, but after that you start to look forward to that cool refreshing feeling."

Remember all of the vets

I had the honor of attending two WWII Army reunions with my grandfather before he died two years ago. I think I kind of took for granted that those guys were still around before I went to the reunion. We went to the Truman Library one year and to the World War II Memorial in D.C. the year after it opened. I think a lot of them didn't talk much about the war, except when they were in that situation with other vets--I know my grandpa didn't. Hearing their stories and seeing their reaction to the memorial is something I will always treasure. Last summer, or maybe this summer will be their last reunion as well. As a historian, it's hard to think about what is dying with them. I'm glad I got the opportunity to hear about some of it while I had the chance.

Medicinal spray

I wonder what was in that sprayer? My guess is a sulfa compound of some kind.

Pat Answer

Maybe his name is Pat Kelly.

(Is that what the tattoo says? Yes, I know it might be his girlfriend or wife but I'm working with what I got here! Never tattoo your girl's name on your arm ... some things don't last forever and the next girl might not understand why you have someone else's name tattooed on your arm.)

Tats

Wow, what great tattoos. This is well before the whole popularization of tattoos in pop culture. Back when tattoos were a sign of rebelliousness, being a sailor, or a general dreg of society. Poor guy though, doesn't look too fun.

A day that will live in infamy

Any information on who this sailor is, or whatever became of him? Thank you for posting this today, by the way.

[No idea. If he was lucky he got old. - Dave]

Remember Pearl Harbor

I had the opportunity today to be at a breakfast honoring Pearl Harbor survivors. It was mentioned that this would probably be the last one due to the age of the survivors. I think their biggest fear is that they will be forgotten. I hope that never happens.

 
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