Wednesday, December 7

Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and below is an awesome article involving my Grandpa Hawkins from the Daily Herald.  Check it out:

David H. Hawkins is a tall man, with short gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He still looks strong, despite his 85 years.

Sixty-five years ago today -- Dec. 7, 1941 -- he was 21 years old and serving as a Marine near a U.S. base named Pearl Harbor.

"It was on Sunday morning. We thought it was our day off," said the Provo resident.

He was reading the funny papers in his tent when a strange-sounding plane buzzed overhead.

"I put my feet on the floor, looked out, and there was a squadron of Japanese torpedo planes right at treetop height coming right in off the ocean.

"The mast sergeant hollered, 'Fire your guns!' about that time," he said. The ammunition was locked inside a room, but the sergeant knocked the lock off to get it out and the men ran to their guns.

"There was more confusion than you've ever heard of," he said.

Hawkins joined the Marines a year and a half before America joined World War II. The former New Mexico cowboy joined up because he didn't have the money to go to Brigham Young University and had heard there was a program that would allow him to take college courses by correspondence for free if he joined.

"I didn't know the war was going to start then. But when it started I would have joined anyway," said Hawkins.

In Hawaii, Hawkins was assigned to train sailors to use machine guns. He was stationed on the USS Enterprise and was on detail duty on Oahu, at the channel of Pearl Harbor across from the Hickam Air Field. They had the guns set up on a cement firing line, and planes would come flying over at 35-45 mph, dragging a sleeve behind them for the sailors to shoot at.

Then came that Sunday morning.

After freeing up the ammunition, the confident Marines stepped out into the sunlight.

"We thought we'd shoot every one of them down," he said. The problem was the planes they had practiced on had been going 35-45 mph and these were going at about 250 mph.

"We were shooting behind them. But we were all excited, you know" he said, chuckling.

He said a colonel at Fort Kamehameha told them later that they had shot down eight planes, but Hawkins said he only saw one go down and one smoking.

"We were the first people to shoot on the island."

He said they were the only ones he heard shooting for another 30 minutes or an hour.

It wasn't too long before the Japanese realized where the firing was coming from and sent in Zero planes to fire on the gunners, he said.

"When they'd come we'd see them knocking up the dirt before they got there," he said. He and the other gunners would jump underneath the ammunition room when the planes came by, he said, then they would run back out after the planes had passed and try to hit them before they got out of range. No one at the guns was killed that day, he said.

There were not enough guns for everyone, he said, so the Marines fired the guns and the sailors watched. He said they could hear machine guns going off, and bombs from the harbor.

"It smelled like smoke and fire and dead men and dead sailors and big blasts going off all the time," he said.

Shells were exploding over Honolulu, he said, damaging rooftops in the city. The American planes were parked so close together that the Japanese were able to shoot and disable them and keep them from even being able to take off. The Americans' confusion didn't help matters.

"They were shooting at each other and everything."

"There was a lot of excitement and a lot of shooting and a lot of confusion. It was a bad deal."

The attack lasted a little more than two hours. At the end of it there were 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded. But that was not the end of it for Hawkins.

There were rumors flying that the Japanese were going to attack by land, so the Marines hauled the machine guns down to the beach to wait for them. Hawkins said that he dozed off once or twice, dreaming of the Japanese.

"I was thinking then I was fighting them -- hand-to-hand combat," he said.

"Everybody was pretty nervous."

After the attack, around 11 p.m., he said, the Enterprise arrived in the harbor and Hawkins and his companions were ordered back on board. They had to confiscate a motor launch -- a type of boat -- to get back to the ship, and on the way down to the beach they were almost shot by their own troops.

"Everyone was shooting at everything that moved," he said. They managed to get to the launch though, and set out.

"We had about six Marines out there and one of them knew how to run a motor launch, and one of them knew how to crank it up," he said. They had to maneuver their way around a torpedo net on the way there, and as they were coming around it, he said, someone on the beach started firing on them.

"First thing we knew we was bouncing shells off our gunnel," he said. The Marines dived into the bottom of the boat, and the one who knew how to drive it backed the launch up and went around the other end.

Inside the harbor, he said, there was destruction everywhere.

"We saw all these guys floating in the water and oil burning on the water and all these battleships sunk," he said.

Since the gangplank had already been taken up on the Enterprise, the Marines had to climb up a rope ladder to get on board. Hawkins was the first one up the ladder, and he said when his head came over the quarter deck, there was an officer with a gun waiting for him.

"This officer on the ship held a .45 up between my eyes and said, 'Give me the password,' " he said. The problem was the message sent to the marines hadn't included the ship's password. Things were getting more serious until someone walked by who recognized Hawkins and vouched for him, and they managed to talk their way out of being shot. He said it was around 2 a.m. when they finally got on board. By the dawn of Dec. 9, the Enterprise had left the harbor.

Hawkins said he is not angry with the Japanese anymore, but he had been after the attack.

"I called the Japanese a lot of bad names," he said. But he said that's over now.

"I found out that I don't have any enmity in my heart against them anymore," he said.

"They were good people. They were good people."

Admiral William Frederick Halsey Jr., who Hawkins served under, was not too happy with the Japanese after the attack, either. Hawkins said someone heard the admiral muttering to himself about the Japanese sometime after the attack.

"He said, 'The only place you'll hear their language spoken is in Hades!' " Hawkins said.

For Hawkins, Pearl Harbor was only the beginning. He served throughout the rest of World War II, earning a Purple Heart among other medals, and didn't leave the marines until March of 1946.

One of Hawkins's grandsons is currently serving a mission in Japan for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hawkins said when he first heard about the call, he told his grandson to do something for him -- once you get over there, Hawkins said, whip four or five of them for me. Then he went back and thought about it. No, he told his grandson later, he had changed his mind. It would be better if he went over there and baptized them.

1 comment:

Sara said...

What an amazing story. Your grandpa is the man. I love that he changed his mind about whipping a few of them.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...