In the early '90s on Dec. 7, I was serving as the Nurse of the Day at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital. It came to my attention that one of our patients had served at Pearl Harbor in 1941. I made my rounds of the various departments under my responsibility and ended on the ward that this sailor was on. I located his room and went in and introduced myself. After several minutes of discussion related to his hospital stay and his treatment, I sat down in a chair not far from his bed.
I then reminded him that it was Dec. 7 and wondered if he felt like talking about his experience on that day in 1941. I didn't know if he would be willing to share his memories with a young officer in this setting at his bedside. Turns out he was proud to share his experiences on that day with me. I sat at his bedside and was given a minute by minute description of the events that took place on that Dec. 7 in 1941. He was working ashore next to the harbor where most of the ships were moored, including USS Arizona. He saw the formation of aircraft approaching the base and was not aware that it was an impending attack until the first explosion was heard. From that moment on, his world was turned upside down. He described the sudden confusion and chaos. He related many heroic actions he saw that day. It was soon obvious to me that this man was a hero in his own right. Anyone who survived the initial attack was called upon to help their shipmates in some fashion.
I have to say that the approximately two hours I spent speaking with this elderly sailor were some of the best spent hours of my career. He was sad but also beaming with pride as he remembered the events from that day. He remembered the friends he had lost and there were many. I am so glad I took the time to visit this patient on that infamous day.
Robert Pelletier, LT/NC/USN/RET