Pearl Harbor still painful for many Americans

Robert Houk • Dec 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, a “date which will live in infamy” in a speech to a startled nation a day after the devastating air strike against U.S. forces in Hawaii.

Local veterans say the events of 77 years ago still resonate with the families of those who were killed that day, as well as to Americans who remember first hearing the news about Pearl Harbor on the radio. That includes the relatives of seven area servicemen who were among the 2,402 listed killed or missing as a result of the attack that sank five battleships and four other warships.

“There wasn’t a CNN blasting out the details of that day,” Bryan Lauzon, commander of  the American Legion’s Kings Mountain Post 24, said Wednesday. “People were still hearing the news on the radio and from newspapers the next day when President Roosevelt spoke to the nation.

“People were shocked. We had been drawn into war by Japan, and the Great War was supposed to be the war to end all wars.”

A Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony was held Sunday by the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council at the museum of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home. Allen Jackson, a historian for the TCMAC and the American Legion, said it was the seventh year veterans and family members have gathered to remember the Pearl Harbor attack.

“It’s important we remember all the lives that were lost that day, and to make sure they did not die in vain,” Jackson said.

The remains of one local sailor who died in the Pearl Harbor attack were finally returned to his native Elizabethton in October. Navy Seaman Second Class William Vane Campbell was 20 years old when he was killed serving aboard the USS Oklahoma. Campbell and 428 other crewmen were killed in the attack that Sunday morning while their ship was moored on Battleship Row at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

In addition to Campbell, there were two other local sailors aboard the USS Oklahoma when it sank — Fireman First Class Paul Edd Saylor of Johnson City and Fireman Third Class Warren Harding Crim of Bristol.

Jackson said new DNA technology has also allowed officials to identify Crim’s body earlier this year. He said officials hope to soon be able to do the same for Saylor.

Jackson, who spoke to a Pearl Harbor ceremony at the Jonesborough Seniors Center earlier Wednesday, said the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not the first time the naval base faced an air attack. He said his research has found that a similar strategy was employed by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Harry Ervin Yarnell during a large-scale war games exercise the Navy conducted on Feb. 7, 1932, to test Pearl Harbor’s defenses.

Yarnell, who was also a trained pilot, led an opposing task force that used two aircraft carriers strategically deployed on a Sunday morning to stage what war games umpires originally declared to be a “clear victory” for the opposing force.

With representatives from the Imperial Japanese Navy among those on hand to observe the exercise, Yarnell’s planes “loaded with flares and bags of white flour” pounded airfields and ships docked on Battleship Row.

Jackson said the decision was reversed when “Navy and Army brass complained to the War Department that Yarnell had cheated and that the attack had been unrealistic.”