Infamy

Photo of SSG John D. Barker

SSG John D. Barker US Army 1941 – 1945

As I begin writing this article, it is the same time that 75 years ago today, nearly 2,500 sailors, soldiers, and marines lives would be tragically and suddenly ended or changed forever. A carefree assignment on an island paradise in the Pacific turned into a fury of chaos, confusion, and death.

Scott Barker and I served in the US Army Military Police together in the 1970’s. After his service in the Army, Scott joined the FBI and has now retired.

Scott’s late father, SSG John D. Barker – US Army 1941 – 1945, was at Pearl Harbor on that day. Scott’s father did not talk much about it until his later years. Over the past few days, Scott put a brief post on his Facebook page recounting the days leading up to that day 75 years ago. I asked Scott if he would allow me to share these posts with you.

75 years ago, Friday, December 5, 1941.

Dad was deployed with his anti-aircraft gun to protect Pearl Harbor from an imminent attack. Dad said that in the afternoon of that Friday they received orders to return their guns to the base, line them up on the parade field and store the ammunition. The threat of an attack was gone. Tomorrow I will give you his observations from Saturday, December 6th.

75 Years ago, Dec 6, 1941.

Dad and his gun crew had cleaned their artillery piece/anti aircraft gun (they served a dual purpose then) and lined them up on the parade field. No alert status since it had been cancelled on Friday. Anyone that wanted leave was given a pass to go downtown Honolulu. Dad didn’t take leave because he wanted to be up early to eat eggs, cooked any way you wanted them on china on Sunday morning. Every other day it was mess kits. Since he wasn’t going into town, to drink like most soldiers, he was assigned to drive the liberty truck and bring home all the drunks! He rested, went into town and picked up the drunk soldiers, brought them back and went back to bed to get up early to eat the special Sunday breakfast.

75 years ago, December 7, 1941 about 8AM, Honolulu time.

Dad was going through the breakfast line picking up the china plate they only used on Sunday morning. He asked for his favorite, Sunny Side up eggs. He liked them that way because he could use the toast to soak up the egg yellows.

He got his breakfast and walked over to the table, sitting the plate down before he sat down. Before he could put his legs under the table, his eggs and plate exploded in front of him.

He didn’t know what was happening for a moment then heard the sound of planes. He ran outside and saw one of the over 300 Japanese planes that were attacking Pearl Harbor and the surrounding bases.

One of the Zeros, the Japanese fighter had shot directly into his plate on a strafing run on the buildings. He saw the rising sun painted on the tail of the plane.

The Lieutenant ordered them to form up outside, not really a good idea, because when they formed up another plane would strafe them. They did this about 3 times and decided to just to try to get to their guns.

Dad saw one of the guys grab a BAR (Browning automatic rifle) and shoot at the planes. All of their anti aircraft guns were lined up on the parade field so it was impossible to prepare them for combat.

He and the others just dodged the planes during the attack. After the attack they were detailed to retrieve bodies from the Harbor.He said he was a terrible sight. They put them in trucks and lined them up on one of the parade fields.

Just after that they got their guns and prepared defensive positions. They were expecting a Japanese invasion at any time. Of course that didn’t happen.Unfortunately they shot down some of their own planes coming in from the mainland that night in the confusion of the day.

Dad went on to fight in several Island campaigns across the South Pacific in the next 4 years. He won the Bronze Star during one of them.

He didn’t talk much about it for years but late in life he opened up completely and made it a point to educate youth about Pearl Harbor. He held no ill feelings about the Japanese soldiers. He said they were just doing what soldiers were told to do.

Thanks for reading these remarks and keeping the memory of Pearl Harbor alive. There are actually some survivors there today to celebrate the 75th anniversary. May God Bless them all.  (Posted by Scott Barker on Facebook)

One moment, a young soldier was only thinking about enjoying eggs, sunny side up on toast served on a china plate.  In an instant, just as that bullet from the sky shattered that china plate, the lives of millions of Americans changed.

My father turned 90 this year.  He was drafted near the end of the war.  He was among the hundreds of thousands of soldiers training for a D-Day type of invasion of Japan.    The American lives lost at D-Day in France would have paled in comparison to the lives lost in a similar assault on Japan.

Fortunately, President Truman, decided to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war. Americans should never apologize for Truman’s decision.

In his address to the nation, President Roosevelt said that December 7, 1941 was a day that will live in infamy. It is a reminder of how quickly the freedoms we take for granted can be snatched away from us.

Because we overcame the threat to our freedom 75 years ago, I have the freedom today to express a simple wish.  I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.

Signature-Donald E. Cole

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