Monday, December 07, 2009

Pearl Harbor

The Clarion-Ledger interviews A.C. Hillman, who was a Marine stationed there on December 7, 1941, and who remembers one sailor particularly well:
Hillman, 89, who now lives in Lucedale, was aboard the battleship USS California when the Japanese attacked. Hillman said he was headed to see a friend on the ship when the order for "general quarters" came. He looked out a gun port and saw two planes over the USS Pennsylvania dropping aerial torpedoes that headed for the ship.

"They came straight at us," Hillman said. "I didn't know what to do. My life passed before me in about three seconds."

When a bomb exploded below deck, it set off an anti-aircraft ammunition magazine that killed about 50 men, and by the end of the fighting at Pearl Harbor, 98 of the ship's crewmen were lost and 61 were wounded, according to the California State Military Department.

Hillman was at a gun position high above deck during the fighting. His ammunition lasted about five minutes. The damaged California lost power, so more shells couldn't be sent up. Hillman had to sit helplessly. He could see inside the cockpits of passing planes.

Many other ships were hit. Hillman saw the USS Arizona blow up in an attack that killed 1,177 crewmen. He also saw the USS Oklahoma turn over after being hit by torpedoes - about 400 crewmen were killed. It all happened so fast, he said.

"It was on us just like ants on a piece of bread."

The California began to sink into the mud and only the superstructure remained above the waterline. Hillman said the order to abandon ship came and he had to swim to Ford Island, which is in the middle of Pearl Harbor. Fuel and oil on the surface had caught fire, leaving large areas of burning sea, which forced Hillman and the others to swim underwater for much of the distance. Hillman tried to climb aboard a boat headed to the island, but a sailor told him he couldn't ride.

"He stepped on my hand and made me get off," Hillman said. "That's when I liked to have drowned."
Hillman survived, to enjoy the privilege of taking a bullet in the ribs as part of the first wave ashore at Iwo Jima.

... Silbey considers how we've remembered Pearl Harbor and our other disasters.

... The paper also runs a list, via the state archives, of Mississippians killed at Pearl:
USS Arizona

Burnis L. Bond, Wiggins

Paxton T. Carter, Hattiesburg

Charles B. Chadwick, Coahoma County

John B. Dial, Hattiesburg

Alvie C. Fortenberry, Magnolia

Glen H. Green, Paulding

James A. Menefee, Jackson

Richard P. Molpus, Meridian

Robert E. Moody, Utica

Jessie H. Murphy, Picayune

Lonnie H. Oglesby, Jackson

Cecil R. Ruddock, Pass Christian

Walter T. Smith, Gunnison

George H. Thornton, Blue Springs

Volmer D. White, Kokomo

USS California

Cullen B. Clark, Laurel

Herbert S. Curtis Jr., Kilmichael

USS West Virginia

John R. Melton

Joe E. Mister, Grenada

Hickam Field

Eugene B. Denson, Canton

James E. Gossard, Electric Mills

Theodore K. Joyner, Canton

USS Oklahoma

James W. Davenport Jr., Hattiesburg

Charlton H. Ferguson, Kosciusko

Jim H. Johnston, Wesson

Jerry Jones, Stonewall

Cecil H. Thornton, Mississippi

Durrell Wade, Calhoun City

Wheeler Field

James Everett, Madison

John A. Price, McComb

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