Sharing Patti’s Memory
When I was in the fourth grade I came home from school and like religious clockwork, my mother asked me what I had learned in school that day. I told her that we learned about the heroes of Pearl Harbor. About the hideous Japanese surprise attack, all the men that died, Arizona, and all the surviving men who heroically did everything they could to help and rescue the injured and trapped men. I remember this day very clearly, the teacher’s passionate message and my mother’s reaction. So as I’m gushing all about what I had learned and all about the wonderful heroes of that day.
My mother calmly says, “Would you like to meet one of those heroes?”
Amazed and surprised that my mother actually knows a Pearl Harbor survivor, I say, “YES!!” She told me okay, go do your chores and homework and I will introduce you to him later. So, later that afternoon I hear my father drive in, and we go to the door as we always did when he came home from work. He opened the door, tool a step in the house and my mother says, “There is your hero”. I was flabbergasted! WHAT?? My father is one of the heroes my teacher was gushing with pride about about at school that day?? I remember saying.. “You are one of the heroes?” Very emphatically and definitely he replied, “NO, I am NOT a hero, the heroes never made it home.”
That was my first memory of anything to do with my father being a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
Little did I know at that time that my mother knew very well all about the war and Pearl Harbor. She was one of the first women to join the navy after the war started and they began to allow women into service. The ladies in the Navy were called “WAVES” (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). My mother was stationed at Pearl Harbor and had top-secret clearance as a storekeeper. She worked with The Pacific Fleet’s ships provisions and had knowledge of where the fleet was going, who was on board, and how long the cruise was based on what food was on the ship.
All through the years, we tried to get my father to join the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. He refused. He said over and over that he had been there and seen the devastation. Lost so many friends. He didn’t need to ever think of it again.
I remember when (in 1991) a small flat dark green velvet box was taken from a manila envelope my dad got in the mail. When he opened the box it contained a bronze commemorative coin for the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. He took one look at it and irritatedly announced, “It’s about damn time, and they waited until most of us were dead”. He was not impressed at all that the government had waited 50 years to honor the survivors since so many were not around to see it.
Dad never spoke of the attack. We, over the many years often asked questions and as time past he revealed few memories. Mainly, my mother would proudly repeat his story and he would shake his head as if to say, Yep that’s what happened. I now repeat the story for him.
For many MANY years, we continued to try to get my father to join the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
We thought it was so important to tell his story and get it documented. He still refused. Like a typical 10th generation, Revolutionary War descendant, West Virginia born Scots-Irishman he stubbornly refused. Over the past 10 years my husband would drag my dad to the meetings hoping to get him interested, but NO. They were even honorary members for quite some time. I think it was finally after 69 years that my dad realized he was the only man without the white ceremonial cap.
After 70 years, my father finally became an “official” member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. He never felt a need to join until he decided he wanted the official “white cap”, and the ONLY way to get the “official white cap” was to join. He very painfully agreed to tell his story on video, however, his memory by that time was so faded from his recent illness and surgeries and the pain of the memories that his story is mainly gone. It’s funny what motives people, by golly he wanted that official white cap so he now has the cap!
There are many more details of dad’s story and my own. However, this is most of my story as a Daughter of a Pearl Harbor Survivor and a Navy WAVE.
“Loose Lips Sink Ships”