Monday, November 13, 2006

The Other Veterans

This is a couple of days late, but it's still worth poting.

I'm a veteran. I wasn't married when I was deployed to the Middle East for Desert Shield / Desert Storm. However, there are military spouses that have been in harm's way just as much as their GI mates. One example is my grandmother and infant aunt (my dad wasn't born yet) during the attack on Pearl Harbor. My grandfather was a CPO aboard a Naval transport that was operating out of Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. It was not in port and missed the bulk of the action. His ship did find itself in a confrontation with nearby Japanese ships, but escaped outgunned.

My grandmother saw strafing fire in the front yard of their base housing just before she and my aunt were evacuated to a safe location. I submit her account to you here as she wrote it in 1975:

December 7, 1941 – Attack On Pearl Harbor
By Reba Pemberton – May 19, 1975

And as for Pearl Harbor….. Mart had left Norfolk, Va. In June, 1940 on the ship “William Ward Burrows”, nick-named ‘The Willie”. Mart was lucky enough to get an apartment in the new Navy housing that was just completed in the spring of 1941. (Mart was a career man and served 20 years in the Navy.) He notified me that he had the apartment and the Navy sent me my railroad fare, the name of the ship I was to sail on, and the date I was to sail. Our oldest child Ruth Ann was to be 2 years old on Nov 1. We arrived in Honolulu the 10th day of July 1941. Mart couldn’t meet me, but the Navy sent cars to take the women and children to the YMCA and Mart met us there. We stayed there about two days and then Mart got leave from the ship and we went shopping for furniture, moved into our house and began to live like people. The house we lived in had six apartments. Ours was second from the south end. Mart would be gone to sea a week at a time and I’d take the baby and go visit friends and their husbands were on the same ship, or go shopping down in Honolulu. And then….on that week when Mart had been gone to sea, I got up early that Sunday morning but hadn’t dressed. I had dressed Ruth Ann and fed her breakfast. I turned the radio on and was getting some Hawaiian music when all at once it got dark and I thought we were going to have rain. I picked up the baby and went out the front door and the sky was black with airplanes, and the noise was deafening. My neighbor and his wife was out on their upstairs porch watching the planes. I said “What is this?!” Mr. Bond said it was just maneuvers, but I could see our ships burning and about that time the radio blared out and said “This is War! All women and children get inside and all men back to your base and ships.” That message was repeated over and over. I went inside and got dressed, but didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t sit down and I couldn’t put Ruth Ann down to play. I held her in my arms and went out the back door. Our neighbor behind us said for us to stay inside. I went back in the house and upstairs and out on our upstairs porch and saw the ships being bombed and burning in the harbor. I saw some planes coming down in flames and I though they were ours. I learned later they were the Jap planes, but I could see the high altitude planes dropping bombs and watched them hit our ships. Suddenly, the bullets were kicking up dust in our front lawn so I got back inside. Two bullets went through two apartments and out buildings but not in ours. A Marine knocked at the door and said to take some things and be ready for a bus was coming to take everybody away from the harbor. I went next door to the Moody’s and Mrs. Moody said she was staying in the apartment. A few minutes later another Marine came and said for us to be ready to get out. Another lady (Kay) came in and said she was going. She took my baby and headed for the bus which had just stopped in front of our building. I ran in our house and up the stairs and grabbed the baby some clothes and myself a jacket and got to the bus as Kay was getting on with the baby. We were taken to the YMCA in Honolulu and stayed there that night. Everything was dark for no light was to be seen from the building. If anyone was to go to the bathroom, we had to call for the guard out in the hall. He had a flashlight with a blue bulb to help us see. In the room where I was there were six ladies and their children. No one slept except the children and they were all on the one bed that was there. We got to go back home the next afternoon and I could see the airplanes and hangers in Hickum Field still burning. I didn’t see any dead people, but was told the Air Force men that was on the field had been blown to pieces. Hickum Field was across the highway and railroad from our housing. We were not allowed to have any lights at night and had to be cautious about prowlers – not to open our doors to anyone we didn’t know. I didn’t know where Mart was. I didn’t know if he was alive or not and I lived in fear for two weeks – wondering, not sleeping, or eating right. It’s a wonder I had sense enough to feed the baby. We had to get permission from the Marines on the streets to go to the store, or to go into town. We were lucky the Japs didn’t come back the next day. If they had, we would have all been killed, or taken prisoner.
On a Saturday morning two weeks later, Mrs. Bond knocked at my back door and said she had a dream that Mart would be home that day. Several people had told me during that two weeks that I’d better stay home that he would be home, but I couldn’t believe them. Alta Brewers husband was on the same ship with Mart and she and I stayed on the base around the harbors and the piers waiting for some word, but no one would tell us anything. I did believe Mrs. Bond when she said she dreamed that “The Willie” would be in that afternoon. I had dinner, cleaned the house, dressed the baby and myself, and sat down to wait. About 4 o’clock this friend Kay knocked on my door and when I looked up to see who it was – I saw Mart coming down the street. I guess I almost knocked Kay down as I went out the door. I cried with joy that he was alive and unhurt. Alta Brewer was down on the pier when the ship came in. She had parked her car on the pier and a Marine ordered her to move it. She said, “If you want it moved, you move it yourself, for that ship coming in out there is The Willie and my husband is on it.” She said the Marine turned his back and walked away. She told Mart we were safe. Mart had to stay on the islands, and the baby and me were sent back in January. I left the house as it was and went aboard ship at the time it was to sail for the USA. I didn’t know what would happen to our furniture, but Mart signed for the Navy to send it here. In May our furniture was delivered to my mother’s house by Bekings Trucking Co. It was a long time before I could stand to hear an airplane, or a door slam, or a shot. My nerves were really in a mess. After the attack I couldn’t get word to my parents that we were still alive. Daddy took to his bed from worry and Momma wasn’t much better. I had done a lot of praying and I knew all my friends and relatives were praying for me, and God answered those prayers. I feel He really was watching over us, and I can praise Him forever more.
This is my story of and true experience of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. I’ll never get through thanking my Jesus for what He did for me and the baby as well as for what He did for Mart. Mart has had some narrow escapes, but came through it with the help of the Lord. He is now preaching the Word of God to a small church. He’s an ordained minister and lives it every day. I know God saved my soul a long time ago and He does answer my prayers. I know when I leave this world I’ll have a better home to go to, and I do have a wonderful home here on this earth.
Pardon me for preaching but I do feel so wonderful yet about how good the Lord was to me and my little family. I took strep throat in Feb. after I cam back to the states and Mart got leave to come home in June of 1942. Our son Martin Jr. was on the way after that and at the present time he’s a doctor’s assistant in Ohio. He and his family live in Greenville, Ohio. They have two little boys. Our daughter, Ruth Ann, lives in Louisville, Ky. She and Eddie have a teenage son and a daughter.

Note: Reba Pemberton is the daughter of Fleming Marshall Lovitt.


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