Seventy-six years ago tomorrow (December 7) the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked in a dawn raid by the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service. This surprise attack was intended to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with Japanese incursions into S.E. Asia. The attack would become the major mistake in the history of Imperial Japan. Instead of being deterred, the next day, December 8, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan and ultimately on Germany and Italy. World War II had begun.
The American Pear Harbor casualties were 2,008 Navy personnel killed (700 wounded); 218 Army members killed (364 wounded); 109 Marines killed (69 wounded) and 68 civilians killed (35 wounded). The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 killed or wounded 3,581 Americans.
We lost 159 aircraft, two battleships and 1 auxiliary ship. Of our battleships, 6 were damaged. There were three cruisers damaged, three destroyers and 4 other ships. The U.S. aircraft carriers (which were the ships most highly feared by the Japanese) were at sea and the enemy couldn’t find them.
There were dozens of Alabamians killed at Pearl Harbor. For example, there were 32 Alabama service personnel who died on the U.S.S. Arizona alone. Many others died on the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Others died on the Helena (an auxiliary ship), the U.S.S. Nevada and the U.S.S. California. Many of the bodies were never recovered. Much of Pearl Harbor’s infrastructure was also damaged or destroyed.
We need to take some time to remember those who died or serviced at Pearl Harbor. We have at least two survivors from our State: MSG Thomas Davis from Alexander City and Sherwin Callander from Madison County, AL. I hope there are others and I would love to hear about them.
REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR!
The Veterans Administration does a pretty good job helping vets, but we all need to contact our elected officials to see that funding for the myriad of vet-help issues remains available. One outstanding leader that we have is Sixth District Congressman Gary Palmer who has made no secret of his special support for veterans and their causes. Congressman Palmer and others have helped our veterans avoid being placed on the back burner somewhere. Congrats to Congressman Palmer and the others!
On the negative side of things, there have been numerous vet-abuse circumstances. Older veterans have been assaulted and gravely injured. One nurse in a hospital setting was videoed laughing at the pleas of a very sick veteran struggling to get his breath. We have seen cases where veterans have been thrown out of their homes and other serious acts of cruelty.
In a Viet Nam veteran matter, there has been a new ailment related to flukes which has long been dormant in the bodies of S.E. Asia vets who ate uncooked or poorly cooked fish or were in dirty rivers and streams. Like Agent Orange and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), some things from 50 years ago simply won’t cease to plague our vets. All Viet Nam veterans should be checked out for this ailment at the VA Hospital.
Thanks to the excellent leadership of Mayor Stan Hogeland of Gardendale, we are looking forward to a big year of veteran’s activities in 2018. I will be working with Viet Nam Veterans Association (Chapter 416) first VP Ron Becker to come up with some special events in the coming year. We will concentrating on Veterans Day (celebrated this year on Monday, November 12, because the 11th is on a Sunday) and on Thursday, March 29th “Welcome Home Day” for Viet Nam veterans.
I want to wish all of you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. – GI Joe
Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale.
Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.