A Family's Story on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
Council for a Strong America's Vice President Reflects on the 76th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
By Cindy Sadler
It’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day — 76 years since Japan’s surprise attack on Hawaii, killing 2,403 soldiers, sailors and civilians, and propelling the U.S. into World War II.
I would like to share a family story, one that continues to be as clear and moving to me today as it was when I first learned about it as a kid.
My mother grew up in rural Tennessee, 50 miles south of Nashville. She was the fifth of seven kids. Her eldest brother had enlisted in the Army a few years earlier, right after graduating from high school, and was stationed at Schofield, which isn’t all that far from Pearl Harbor. In December 1941, he was 22; my mom was almost 12.
Communications in 1941 were pretty rudimentary, particularly in rural Tennessee. The family did have a phone, but it was a party line, and service was unreliable. And of course, no internet, cell phones, TV. They were still getting their news from the radio which had, at best, spotty reception that far away from the broadcast towers in Nashville. Also, the chaos that resulted from the attack made early news stories unreliable and lacking any significant detail.
It took a full week for news to get to them that my uncle had survived, uninjured. But the news could so easily have been devastating instead of a relief. Because it turns out that my uncle had spent the Saturday evening before the Sunday morning attack playing poker with some buddies on the USS Arizona.
My grandparents and the kids still at home (all but the eldest two) got the news of the attack while they were at church on that Sunday morning. They went home, listened to the radio broadcasts, and prayed. But it took a full week for news to get to them that my uncle had survived, uninjured. That news, too, came while they were in church.
Apparently there were a lot of prayers of thanks sent out that day, not just by my family, but by the entire congregation and the town of Mount Pleasant. My uncle was the only local boy in Hawaii, and my grandmother, in particular, was universally loved in the community.
But the news could so easily have been devastating instead of a relief. Because it turns out that my uncle had spent the Saturday evening before the Sunday morning attack playing poker with some buddies on the USS Arizona. He’d had some beer, and had originally accepted an offer to bunk on the ship for the night rather than driving back to Schofield.
However, he was also 6'4", and apparently just couldn’t get comfortable on the relatively short bunks on the ship, so at about 4:00 am, he got up and drove back to his own barracks, where he was still sleeping at a little before 8:00, when the first wave of Japanese planes started the offensive.
The Arizona was hit in the second wave. It sank with over 1,100 on board whose bodies, for the most part, couldn’t be recovered.
My uncle’s kids, and his almost 20 nieces and nephews and their numerous offspring, will always remember him and the others who serve our country with gratitude and respect.
My uncle chose the military as a 25 year career as a result of his experiences that day. He died a decade ago and is buried at Arlington, as are a couple of other uncles by marriage. I grew up in a family that revered and respected the military.
My grandmother, who was credited by most people who knew her as having the closest thing possible to “perfect faith,” pointed to that week — waiting for news, praying, and putting her trust in God — as the point at which she developed the deep belief that sustained her through her life.
And my uncle’s kids, and his almost 20 nieces and nephews and their numerous offspring, will always remember him and the others who serve our country with gratitude and respect.