Every Pearl Harbor survivor has a fascinating story to tell. On the morning of December 7, 1941, an aerial striking force of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack that left more than 2,400 Americans dead. Those who survived experienced what must have been the most grueling day of their lives. Men like Donald Stratton, a survivor of the explosion and sinking of USS Arizona (BB-39)—a tragedy that claimed 1,177 lives—made it their mission in life to keep the memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor alive. Stratton dedicated years working to ensure official recognition of the heroes of Pearl Harbor, especially Joe George, the USS Vestal (AR-4) sailor responsible for saving his life.
In his 2016 book, All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor, Stratton tells the story of his experiences at Pearl Harbor, from before the attack commenced to the agonizing hours that followed. All the Gallant Men is a great read for anyone planning to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
A trip to Pearl Harbor is a moving and informative experience, and Stratton’s book complements it with his intimate, firsthand memories of one of the worst attacks ever to take place on American soil. Gazing down on the sunken wreckage of USS Arizona, readers will have images from Stratton’s story playing in their heads. It’s the closest they’ll get to living through the horrors of that December morning.
All the Gallant Men became a New York Times bestseller, and is a must-read for military historians and anyone with an interest in the events of December 7, 1941. Stratton’s account is deeply personal, and helps transport modern readers to the horrors of Pearl Harbor more than 75 years ago. Accompanying his personal account of the attack, Stratton includes newspaper clippings and photographs that help paint a complete picture of the events that shook the United States to its core.
According to Stratton, the book was his attempt at preserving his memories. “It has been said that when an old person dies, it is like a library burning down,” he writes in the memoir. As more Pearl Harbor survivors pass on, we’re left with fragments of the stories they once told. All the Gallant Men ensures that Donald Stratton’s story is told in its entirety, starting “a little after 5:00 AM” on that otherwise quiet Sunday morning.
Stratton’s minute-by-minute account details the significant events of the attack, including the sinking of a Japanese midget submarine by the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) and the initial strike on Wheeler Field at approximately 07:51.
At 07:55, Stratton’s story really begins and that’s where readers will become engrossed by the written history of one man’s experiences during a tragic assault that dragged the United States into World War II.
If you’re contemplating a trip to Pearl Harbor, consider diving into All the Gallant Men. It’s a 320-page historical journey that helps explain the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific that followed.