Memories of Pearl Harbor: A Final Farewell

The United States annually memorializes the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The news is full of stories and survivors merged upon Hawaii in wheelchairs and double canes.

I recall the story from my father from his personal experience of the incident.

My father, James Henry Hoover, a product of the Depression, joined the U.S. Navy in 1939 and after boot camp was assigned to Pearl Harbor. He was a quartermaster, assisting the ship’s navigation officer. His particular responsibility was semaphore and Morse using an Aldis lamp.

His ship USS Richmond, a light cruiser, left Pearl just before the bombing on a mission to Valparaiso, Chile.

Dad related that he was at the helm room on the bridge with the ship’s captain examining the charts as the ship proceeded out in the Pacific Ocean about 5,000 nautical miles from Hawaii.

The radioman, nicknamed “Sparks,” rushed to the bridge and informed the captain that there was a FLASH OVERRIDE message to all ships at sea. The captain ordered Sparks to read the telegram aloud to him. The two-page-long telegram detailed the bombing of the Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Army Air Field, etc. When the telegram was read, they were all aghast.

The ship was ordered to return to Pearl Harbor. As Richmond entered Pearl Harbor and approached Ford Island, my father related that he was horror-struck by the devastation of the once so elegantly beautiful island and the wreckage of ships inside the harbor.

In April 2007 my dad and I went to Hawaii to visit the USS Arizona National Memorial. When the skiff landed at the on-ramp to the memorial, he limped to the back wall and eventually found the name “Jenkins” listed on the memorial wall of sailors who remain inside Arizona to this day. Dad took pictures of the name and stood in silence. Little did I realize that he was saying his final goodbye to Seaman 2nd Class (S2c) Robert Henry Dawson Jenkins, USN from Texas, one of 1,177 sailors still there.

Dad later that day explained that this sailor had been his best friend on Richmond, and just prior to its departure from Pearl, Jenkins had been promoted and transferred to Arizona. Jenkins is one of the 1,177 sailors who perished on Arizona that fateful day 79 years ago.

Soon after, Dad passed away in December 2007; his life completed and his closure that was awaited for 66 years.

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