On December 7, 1941, these Pearl Harbor heroes rose above and beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow man and country. Though there was so much death and destruction, these brave souls risked their lives to help their fellow crewmen.
Read more about these Pearl Harbor heroes and remember that even in the darkest times, there are those who will always turn on the light.
Born in Springfield, Ohio, First Class Seaman James Ward sacrificed his life on that fateful day to help his crewmen escape to safety. Ward was stationed on the USS Oklahoma, one of the ships the Japanese sank that day.
When it looked clear that the ship would sink, Ward didn’t flee or hide. With only a flashlight, Ward stayed in a turret where some crewmen still remained. Without his light, the crewmen never would have seen the exit. Thanks to him, they followed the light and safely escaped.
Unfortunately, Ward was unable to escape the turret himself. He lost his life that day. Ward was later honored with a Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart.
The morning of December 7, 1941, was just like any other morning for Doris Miller, an African American Mess Attendant, Third Class on the USS West Virginia. After serving breakfast, Miller started on the day’s laundry when a Japanese torpedo struck the side of the ship. Rather than caving to the chaos around him, Miller sprung into action, helping the injured get to safety by moving them back and forth across the deck.
When his superior officer asked him to help load ammo into two Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns, Miller loaded the guns and then began firing them at the Japanese plans above. Though it is unknown whether he hit any planes, Miller helped keep the planes at bay, despite having no training with the gun.
Miller survived the attack and received several promotions, but two years later, he was killed when a torpedo sank the USS Liscome Bay. For his acts of bravery, Miller received the Navy Cross and a Purple Heart. He became the face of recruitment posters for the Navy, and in 2010, his face appeared on a first-class postage stamp honoring great sailors.
Miller wasn’t the only hero on the USS West Virginia. In fact, he briefly crossed paths with another hero – Captain Mervyn Bennion.
During the attack, shrapnel mortally wounded Bennion, but instead of allowing Miller and other officers to carry him away to safety, Bennion insisted he remain on the ship. Though he was in great pain, Bennion continued to give orders and direct his men as they tried to defend the ship. He eventually died from his injuries, but not before doing everything possible to save his men.
For his bravery, Bennion was awarded a Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart.
Machinist Donald Ross never knew what the USS Nevada would bring him, but when the Japanese began attacking her in their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Ross launched into action.
First, Ross cleared his station – the forward dynamo room – which was quickly filling with heat, smoke and steam. It was nearly impossible to see, but Ross didn’t care. After his men escaped to safety, he remained to keep the room working until he become completely blind and unconscious.
Luckily, he was saved and resuscitated, but Ross didn’t remain in safety for long. He went right back to that forward dynamo room to secure it. Once he finished, he moved on to the after dynamo room, but the smoke and heat finally got to him. He passed out once more, but managed to regain consciousness. He left the room and returned to his station until told to abandon the station altogether.
Ross later received the Medal of Honor for his valor.
We often think heroes wear capes and masks, but as these Pearl Harbor heroes show, anyone can be a hero. All it take is courage and a strong will to do the right thing. These are just a few Pearl Harbor heroes, and there are many more. Come to Pearl Harbor to honor these great men and show your appreciation for their sacrifice.