Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to find any ray of light when a dark cloud washes over an entire nation. The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor seemed to leave the United States devoid of any happiness, but even the greatest of tragedies can’t sully the most remarkable of events.

An Unexpected Attack

At 0755, a fleet of Japanese planes flew into the Pearl Harbor and carried out an aerial attack that no one saw coming. Despite the greatest efforts of the men stationed at the naval base, the Japanese pulled off the greatest surprise attack the United States had ever felt at the time.

What followed were hours of panic and fear. Pearl Harbor became a giant rescue effort while families in Honolulu and other Oahu towns prepared for the aggressor to return. Amid all this chaos, Amney Burpee was expecting a great gift that she’d been waiting nine months for – the birth of her son. At the onset of the attack, Amney was at Tripler Hospital, expecting her baby to arrive at any moment.

A Baby Is Born

David Burpee as a baby

Though the delivery of her son—like that of any baby at that time—required a lot of medical care, the wounded from Pearl Harbor started to arrive in droves, taking over areas of the hospital meant for people like Amney Burpee, who was awaiting the arrival of a new life. Of course, the injured sailors were given precedence, and the pregnant woman was moved three times, first to a makeshift maternity ward and finally to a regular ward.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the baby’s father was stationed at Wake Island, installing bomber beacons for the Army Signal Corps. With his baby on the way, Harry Burpee was granted leave back to Pearl Harbor to be with his family. Timing for Harry was everything. After he left Wake Island for his return trip back to Hawaii, the unit he was stationed with suffered major casualties from an attack by the Japanese that occurred about the same time as the Pearl Harbor assault. All of the men still present on Wake Island were either killed or sent to POW camps.

Back in the frantic hospital, Amney’s son was ready to greet the world, and so, surrounded by the chaos of the aftermath of the Japanese attack, David Burpee was born. Within a darkened hospital, windows blacked out as a safety measure against a feared third wave, Amney held her son. Elsewhere in the hospital, another baby had been born during the attack, earning the nickname “Blitz.” The nickname was a means of maintaining privacy, and because he was born in the quieter, darker hours of the evening, David was nicknamed “Blackout.”

The Baby Grows Up

Col. David Burpee

It’s no surprise that, long after his Pearl Harbor birth, the young Burpee joined the United States Army to serve the nation that helped usher him into the world without harm. Over the course of 28 years, Burpee rose to the rank of colonel and fought in Vietnam. Despite being born during one of America’s darkest times, David Burpee grew up and made a name for himself, eventually working as the public affairs adviser to NATO’s supreme Allied Commander for Europe during the Gulf War.

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