Dec 07, 2011
Every year on December 7th, I think, for just a few minutes, how lucky I am to have been born. I call, or visit with my Dad, and try to get him to tell me one of his war stories, for the umpteenth time.
My Dad is almost 90 years old, a Pearl Harbor Survivor, and still going strong. When I called him today I only got to speak with my Mom. My Dad was busy entertaining guests from their Pearl Harbor Survivor's Club. It was their very last get-together. The club was disbanded, due to the decline in membership. There were just too few of them left in our area to keep it going, and many of the members are in poor health. But I heard lots of laughter over the phone in the background, and I speculate that someone else was hearing those stories, again for the umpteenth time!
So I thought, just for fun, I would write down a couple of my Dad's stories here, to share with my friends. I know I can't tell them as well as my Dad, or even remember all the details, but I think I can remember enough.
The first story he ever told us kids had to do with where he was on the morning of December 7th, 1941. He was asleep, in his bunk bed when the bombs started falling. He awoke, along with the other young men in his barrack, to the terrible noise of destruction, his bed shaking, shouting and confusion.
One soldier after the other dove under their beds and covered their heads, for whatever protection it could provide.
Several seconds after crawling under his bunk, my Dad was joined by another frightened, young man, who squeezed himself in under the bed, beside my Dad. Surprised, my Dad looked up and said to him, "What are you doing? There's no room! Why aren't you under your own bed"?
The soldier didn't answer, but covered his head, determined to stay right where he was. When the immediate danger had passed, he looked up at my Dad, and my Dad asked again, "Why didn't you get under your own bed"?
Frightened and shaking, the young man shook his head and told my Dad "Because, my bed's only got one blanket on it"!
I'm sorry to say, my Dad teased him mercilessly about it for a long time afterward. But, that's my Dad. They were both 19 years old, and teasing, pranks and humor were a very necessary part of their survival.
Another time (I believe my Dad said they were going out on maneuvers), Dad was laying low with another soldier, when they heard a noise nearby. (I think this actually happened when he was stationed at Guadalcanal). Anyway, gunfire broke out around them, and my Dad discovered, to his horror, that his rifle had no firing pin! It seems, a certain "buddy" of my Dad's had asked to borrow his rifle for some reason that morning (I can't remember the reason), and had deliberately taken the firing pin, as a prank! I don't think he knew Dad was going to need that rifle that morning, but my Dad was furious. Luckily, no one was hurt that day, but Dad soon had an opportunity to get back at his so-called "buddy".
My Dad took a grenade, rendered it harmless, and then put the pin back on the "dead" grenade. Then he waited for his "friend" to go to use the latrine. A minute after the guy entered the latrine, my Dad walked up to the door, shouted, and rolled the grenade under. Inevitably, a scream came from the latrine, and the guy came running out, reaching down to pull up his pants as he was running. Several men were waiting to see the outcome of this, and were not disappointed. Their laughter was music to dad's ears.
Close to the end of my Dad's service, he was with a crew in charge of keeping a strip of land clear for planes. They had few supplies, and Dad spent the weeks he was there, gathering whatever he could, to put together a decent kitchen and supply tent. He was quite proud of the result of his efforts, to get food and supplies brought in, and had a well organized, functional kitchen set up.
Then he got word that it was time for him to go home. He had finished his service to his country, and was to leave in a few days. But, Dad wasn't ready to leave. He had just gotten the kitchen finished to his satisfaction, and wasn't going to be around to see the crew enjoy it. He didn't want to leave yet. He wanted to stay a while longer.
The guy's teased him, and laughed in disbelief, "Ted's got his papers, and he doesn't want to go home! This nut won't go home"!
Thankfully, he did come home, met my mom in San Francisco, and married her at Lake Tahoe soon after. He had some rough times ahead, with PTSD (from all the terrible things he refused to share with us kids), but Mom took good care of him, so the man I knew as Dad was mostly a very kind, generous, responsible, hard-working, dependable, and very funny guy.