As the United
States slowly recovered from the great depression of the 1930s, there
were few more exciting opportunities for a young man than a career in
the Navy. It offered a stable income, warm meals, a semi-comfortable
bed, and the chance to SEE THE WORLD. Exotic ports of call awaited those
who chose to spend a few years of their youth at sea, and the Navy
beckoned America's young men like a seductress.
Harbor in the territory of Hawaii was the homeport of the Pacific Fleet,
a wonderful "home away from home" for the men who
preserved America's interests abroad. Though the European continent
found itself embroiled in a bitter world war in the latter days of the
1930s, in the Pacific there was no hint of trouble. American ships made
routine patrols, practiced drills that most men thought would never be
needed, and then returned to Pearl Harbor for periods of rest,
relaxation, and recreation.
weekend of December 6 and 7, 1941, promised to be a great time for the
sailors who had returned to Pearl. There wasn't the slightest hint of
trouble; even the weather seemed to be smiling on the tropical port.
When the sun rose on Sunday morning young sailors from around the United
States had little opportunity to be homesick; there was too much to see
a pier near the harbor sailors and Marines prepared for a softball game.
On the nearby battleship USS Nevada, others were getting
ready for a tennis tournament. Many of the sailors had spent the night
ashore, others had returned to their berths late after a night on the
town. There was limited duty on this beautiful Sunday morning, affording
ample opportunity for the men to enjoy their brief stay in Paradise.
As the hour neared
the 8 o'clock muster and the raising of the colors, all was peaceful and
relaxed. A large number of sailors gathered on the beach for an outdoor
morning chapel service. On the USS Nevada the band was beginning the
first strains of the National Anthem for the hoisting of the flag.
harbor men were at ease, finishing breakfast, writing letters home,
planning for their afternoon on the island's sandy beaches, or just
sleeping in. Aboard the USS Nevada, Warrant Machinist Donald Ross was
shaving and thinking about his girlfriend Helen at home. Tomorrow would
be Donald's birthday. On board the USS Oklahoma Ensign Francis Flaherty
was counting the days until he could return home to Michigan and go back
to school. He had joined the Navy to earn money to get into medical
At Kaneohe Bay,
John Finn cuddled next to his wife Alice as they tried to decide which
of them would get up and start the coffee.
It was 7:53 A.M. and events were about to unfold that would propel the
United States into a World War that would ultimately cost more than a
quarter-million American men and women their lives. On this day alone
more than 2,400 men, women and children would die in Paradise.