Friday, December 7, 2012
A Day That Will Live In Infamy
I posted much of this before at my previous blog.
You may have missed it, so It's easy (lazy) enough to cut and paste.
The following is excerpted from a letter I transcribed for my friend Nate Weiser to a high school class that had asked him to relate his Pearl Harbor experience on Dec 7th, 1941.
Nate had a degree in education with a sports career and had worked his way through college in the depression.
His military career was somewhat unique in that he was both at Pearl and Normandy.
His commander at Pearl had given him permission to forgo mess duties as he pursued radio courses at the local college in Honolulu.
The mess sergeant saw Nate as a slacker for that. When the dishes rattled in the following story, he came out roaring at Nate for dropping them.
Nate and his two friends had been on a date the night before with some nurses.
He was stationed at Pearl in the Army Air Force and he was in radio.
My two friends and I were going to visit a friend later in the day who was in the Navy, and in Pearl Harbor for a short stay. We were in the Mess Hall around 7:50am Sunday morning. We were waiting in line for our Super Sunday Breakfast before we would go to see our friend when around 8:00am, give or take a few minutes, we heard a large noise that shook the building, and all the stacks of dishes that were on the table fell to the floor. The Mess Sergeant came out and was cussing everyone out. Right then, the second bomb fell and the table plus the food went crashing to the floor. I ran to the door and saw the Japanese Insignia on the aircraft and said to Don and Merrill, "Why are the Japanese planes here? This could be war!"
The planes were strafing all over the area. We were going to hide under the warehouse building next to the Mess Hall, but "Indian Joe", a WW1 veteran told us to get going and try to go to the Residential Area, and go in between the buildings so we wouldn't get hit. We saw the Number 1 hangar on the runway in flames. Half of it was full of ammunition (rumor had it that we were going to Wake Island in a very short time). They hit that hangar first, they knew what was in it. The planes on the ramp were tail to tail, all they did was strafe down the line and get two planes at a time. The reason they were tail to tail was so every Saturday morning the post could march in front of the commander before we had the weekend free. It was a miserable sight to see with us running for our lives. The planes flew so low that you could see some of the pilots red scarves and goggles. That sight I will never forget.
We finally got to the Residential Area and I went into one of the homes near Schofield Barracks. A sergeant lived there and had a couple of children. He told us to stay for a while and then go back to our base for instructions. It was thought that the Japanese might land and try to take the island over. The sergeant would get his company and go up into the mountains, and if the Japanese did invade, he told his wife what to do. We went back to the barracks, and each one of us got a .45 and a belt full of ammo. The second wave of planes was not as great as the first, but that evening it started to rain. The captain called us in his portable quarters and gave us a box about 8' long, 6" wide and 4 or 5" high. He told us that in case of emergency, this would be our only communications between our squadron and Honolulu, so guard it with all our might. It was a transmitter and receiver, all in one! We were to be sure to let him know where we were at all times. We decided to head toward the mountain, but not too far from the runway, near the captain, and hid in case of invasion, but where the planes would not strafe us. Little did we realize that the water off the mountain (it being a very rainy night) would fill our foxhole. We had a very uncomfortable couple of nights. We were very happy to learn after a couple of days that there would be no invasion by the Japanese. All islands were in blackout nights from here on in. By 1943 I was a Staff Sergeant and I and two other Sgts were sent back to the States to go to OCS. (Nate was to be an officer but declined. Also, his two friends died in the attack). After one and a half months, I asked to be sent back to the Air Force.
I was then assigned to Jefferson Barracks in St.. Louis. From there I was assigned to Richmond, Va with the 365th Fighter Bomber Group, 386th Squadron . I was a Tech Sgt and communication chief for P-47 Thunderbolts in the 9th Air Force. We got an all expenses paid tour of Europe.
Nate got the Bronze Star in Europe. it was an award for an idea he had for aircraft radio that allowed them to turn around and get back in the fight quicker in the event of radio failure.
His friends from the night before didn't make it through Dec 7th.
He celebrated his 96th birthday Dec 5th, 2012.
In case you don't know, I'm proud to call him my friend.