Pearl Harbor veteran recalls bewilderment of attack
HONOLULU — Seventy years ago this week, Navy veteran Lou Gore was startled by the muffled thuds of explosions and a burst of commotion while cleaning up from breakfast below deck on the USS Phoenix, a cruiser docked at Pearl Harbor.
Hurrying topside, the 18-year-old seaman second-class was confronted by pandemonium he was unable to immediately comprehend — flames shooting skyward, roiling clouds of dark, acrid smoke, swarms of fighter-bombers buzzing low overhead.
Within moments that Sunday morning, it became clear that the U.S. Pacific fleet was under attack. As reflexes from training took over, Gore and others aboard the Phoenix jumped into action and began firing back with anti-aircraft guns.
“We didn’t know (at first) those were Japanese planes,” Gore, now 88 and visiting the islands with nine members of his family, recalled in a recent interview. “We didn’t know what was happening. I just did my job.”
Gore is one of 100 aging Pearl Harbor Survivors who will attend ceremonies on Wednesday on Oahu marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese air and naval assault that claimed 2,390 American lives and drew the United States into World War Two.
Nearly half of those who perished were sailors aboard the battleship USS Arizona, which Japanese torpedo bombers sank early in the attack, sending 1,177 of its 1,400-member crew to their deaths.
The USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of the ship, now forms a centerpiece of the World War Two Valor in the Pacific National Monument, an historic site administered by the National Park Service.
Gore’s vessel, the Phoenix, was anchored a short distance from the stretch of harbor known as Battleship Row, where the Arizona was moored when it was hit.
“I’ll never forget watching the … USS Arizona battleship jumping up out of the water, landing and rolling on its side,” Gore said. “There were bodies everywhere. Brooms floating in the water, canisters.”
Long after the two-hour surprise attack had ended, the base remained on edge, he recounted. “Everyone was keyed up. After the attack, at night, it wasn’t safe to be out. People were shooting at shadows.”
The Phoenix, among a handful of light cruisers and other vessels that got out of the harbor during or just after the attack, emerged unscathed.
Besides the nearly 2,400 who were killed, the attack left 1,178 people wounded, sank or heavily damaged a dozen U.S. warships and destroyed 323 aircraft, badly crippling the Pacific fleet.
As has been the practice of past anniversary ceremonies, visiting veterans, relatives and dignitaries will bow their heads for a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. on Wednesday, the time when the attack began, as military jets soar overhead in a “missing-man” formation.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon will render a salute to the fallen crew of the Arizona, and the morning service will end with a “walk of honor” by more than 100 Pearl Harbor Survivors and other World War Two veterans, many of them in their late 80s. The gathering is expected to include seven of the last known 18 survivors from Arizona’s crew.
The turnout by Pearl Harbor veterans on Wednesday is expected to be only about half of what it was last year, when about 200 attended.
Mal Middlesworth, former president of the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and current publisher of the Pearl Gram, a quarterly newsletter, estimates there are about 2,700 Pearl Harbor veterans still alive.
For Gore, a resident of Seattle, this week marks his first visit to Hawaii since the 1960s, and his first opportunity to personally show his two sons, his daughter and a granddaughter where he was on the morning of the attack.
Gore went on to serve in Okinawa and New Guinea during World War Two and remained in the Navy for 30 years, including a brief stint in Korea and two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He retired as a petty officer first-class.
Despite the tributes he is receiving this year as a Pearl Harbor veteran, Gore insists he is no hero.
“I’m grateful to still be alive. So many lost their lives for no reason. … I wish I had been able to save more” (lives), he said.
(This story corrects Gore’s rank in paragraph 2 to seaman second-class.)
How much news did you see on this today? How many of our kids learn about this school? How many of us even remembered it was the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day??
Welcome to the Watcher’s Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the ‘sphere and the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday.
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So, let’s see what we have this week…
- The Colossus of Rhodey – Education Must Read
- The Noisy Room – Apocalypse Nowish
- Joshuapundit – Heart Of Darkness; Obama’s Campaign To Make Israel A Scapegoat And Fool America’s Jews
- The Political Commentator – Obama children Malia and Sasha are going to be just fine!
- Simply Jews – The Left The Right And The Supreme Court
- The Right Planet – Soros And The Euro
- GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD – Great Britain’s Iran War Coalition
- Right Truth – Minority Rules Again – In The Military
- New Zeal – Communists Work on a New Improved, Pro–Obama “Occupy” Movement
- The Glittering Eye – Chinese Menu
- Rhymes With Right – The Question No One Is Asking
- Bookworm Room – Newt Gingrich and “the vision thing”
- The Mellow Jihadi – Faced with Draconian Budget Cuts, the Air Force Drafts Gisele Bundchen’s Son Into the Flight Program
- The Razor – The Civics Lesson
- VA Right! – Discussion: George Allen’s Record Examined in Detail
- Liberty’s Spirit – It’s Official: Obama Administration is Farbissen about Israel
- 912 Super Seniors – Disabling the Electoral College before 2012 Election?
- The Independent Sentinel – The Volt Has Caught On Fire
- Arthur Hu – Newt Gingrich Stands Up To Enemies of US and Israel
- Capitalist Preservation – Bryce and Buffy Snodgrass: The winners of dinner with Barack and Michelle
- The New Criterion – Commune plus one submitted by The Colossus of Rhodey
- FrontPage Magazine – Obama Administration’s Threefold Slap in Israel’s Face submitted by The Noisy Room
- Andrew McCarthy – Fears And Smears submitted by Joshuapundit
- American Thinker – You can’t be pro-Obama and pro-Israel submitted by The Political Commentator
- UN Watch – Hillary Clinton to address UN tomorrow while UN rights chief Navi Pillay headlines event with anti-Semitic “Gaddafi Human Rights Prize” group submitted by Simply Jews
- American Spectator – Back To The 1930′s submitted by The Right Planet
- The Wire – What to Expect from Putin After His Party’s ‘Reset’ submitted by GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD
- Wired Danger Room – U.S. Built Its Own Secret Pakistani Spy Service submitted by Right Truth
- Melanie Phillips – The earthquake in the Arab and Islamic world submitted by New Zeal
- Zenpundit – Do Oligarchies Create Insurgencies? submitted by The Glittering Eye
- Michael Berry – Party At Planned Parenthood? submitted by Rhymes with Right
- PJ Media – Gingrich plan on immigration a good starting point submitted by Bookworm Room
- Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid – Demolitions submitted by The Mellow Jihadi
- Michael Totten/American Interest – A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood submitted by The Razor
- Atlas Shrugs – US MIlitary Jihad: Rep. Peter King to hold fourth round of hearings submitted by VA Right!
- Mark Steyn – Egypt’s Descent submitted by The Watcher
- Discovery – Boost Your WiFi Signal Using Only a Beer Can submitted by The Watcher