Reflections on a Visit to Pearl Harbor

The USS Missouri or “Mighty Mo” docked at Pearl Harbor. Missouri received a total of 11 battle stars for service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf, and was finally decommissioned in 1992 after serving a total of 17 years of active service, but remained on the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in 1995. Photos by David Taylor

By David Taylor

I visited Pearl Harbor a few years ago, and a few times since then. It’s very emotional seeing the ships and memorial there, and thinking about the soldiers and sailors who lost their lives, were injured, or otherwise had their lives changed forever on that December morning 80 years ago.

The surprise attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, is indeed a day that has gone down in infamy, and shall remain there forever.

The Sunday morning attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. Of the eight U.S. Navy battleships present, all were damaged, with four sunk. All but USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.

Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. Kazuo Sakamaki, the commanding officer of one of the submarines, was captured.

The shock and chaos must have been overwhelming. I think about the sailors scrambling from below deck, trying to get their bearings, find their designated stations, and aid their fellow crewman if they were able to.

What brought my visit to Pearl Harbor back to me was a newspaper story I read about a fellow West Virginian who had perished on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, and was only recently returned home for burial in Tucker County. His remains were identified earlier this year.

Navy Patternmaker 1st Class Stanislaw Drwall. Photo courtesy of Hinkle-Fenner Funeral Home.

According to the story, Navy Patternmaker 1st Class Stanislaw Drwall, 25 at the time of his death, who would have been 105 on his next birthday, has been returned home to Thomas with full military honors to be laid to rest in the Mount Calvary Cemetery.

He died on the Oklahoma, and was recovered and interred in the “Punchbowl,” the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu which is part of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

His remaining family members had to feel a great sense of relief having their loved one returned home after all of these years. They have a bit of closure many never get.

 Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, which ended World War II. Photo by David Taylor.
Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, Arizona was irreparably damaged by the force of the magazine explosion, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse. The wreck still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor beneath the USS Arizona Memorial. 1,177 souls perished on the Arizona. Photo by David Taylor

If you get a chance to visit Pearl Harbor, I highly suggest doing so. Paying tribute to our fallen soldiers is an honor we should all exercise and value as Americans.

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