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Pearl Harbor: Sailor Finally Receives Recognition, Trump Declares Dec. 7 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Pearl Harbor: Sailor Finally Receives Recognition, Trump Declares Dec. 7 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Sailor Joe George saved six men during the attack.

There are days in the year we should commemorate yearly: 9/11, D-Day, V-Day, July 4. December 7, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, is one of those days. We lost 2,400 in the attack, the majority on the USS Arizona.

Today at Pearl Harbor, a sailor who saved six men finally received his recognition. Also, President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation to recognize December 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Seven survivors joined him for the event.

The speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave on December 8:


During the attack, a young sailor named Joe George risked his life to save “the last six survivors from the sinking USS Arizona.” Everyone thought he should have received a medal. The Navy commended him and added his heroics to his record, but in order to get a medal, the Navy demanded an eyewitness and “corroboration from a senior officer who was aboard the USS Vestal with George.” No one could find them.

Another problem included George disobeying “an order to cut the line between the Vestal, a maintenance ship, and the Arizona.” he refused to do so after he spotted those six men.

Unfortunately, George died in 1996. But those who were around him never forgot his actions, especially the family members of the men he saved. From USA Today:

A few years later, the son of one of the men George rescued took up the cause of the medal.

He called. He wrote letters. He enlisted other Pearl Harbor survivors. He tracked down George’s family and promised George’s widow he would fight to secure recognition for the man who had saved his dad’s life.

George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, joined the campaign. They took it all the way to the White House.

Today, 76 years later, George finally received a medal:

On Thursday, a Navy admiral will present Taylor a Bronze Star Medal for Valor, recognizing George posthumously. The ceremony will take place aboard the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, yards from where the story began.

And though George has died, the story continues. His efforts saved six men that day. Now, improbably — 76 years later — of the five USS Arizona survivors still alive, two of them are men George saved.

When Taylor accepts her father’s medal, she won’t be alone. Donald Stratton, 95, and Lauren Bruner, 97, will be standing there with her.

“Whatever medal it is doesn’t matter,” she said. “It was a story that needed to be told. It was a huge part of history, for those men who were true heroes, and it was was my dad who helped them.”

Memorial Service

Every year, survivors from the attack attend a memorial service to honor and remember those lost on December 7, 1941. Twenty of the survivors made it this year, along with “2,000 Navy sailors, officials and members of the public.”

Gilbert Meyer, 94, was 18 when the Japanese attacked. He went onto serve at Attu, Kiska, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He also witnessed the Japanese surrender in 1945.

Herbert Elfring, 95, was only 19. He thought the explosions were a training exercise. Bullets barely missed him. He enjoys returning because he is one of the few remaining survivors. From The Associated Press:

“I have one of those caps that says ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor’ on it,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people come up and thank me for my service.”

The majority of those who lost their lives were on the USS Arizona, many of those remain inside the ship. The survivors and dignitaries took a boat to the memorial to place wreaths. The AP continued:

“The heroes with us today ensured Pearl Harbor would not be the end of the story,” said Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift. “Instead of retreating from the fight, America’s Pacific Fleet dug in its heels. Along the way, they forged a cultural heritage of resilience that sailors continue to draw upon today.”

“On behalf of a grateful Pacific nation, and a proud Pacific Fleet, I would like to thank our Pearl Harbor and World War II veterans who yet carry the burden and bear the scars of those fateful days,” Swift said. “We honor you for the proud cultural heritage of victory and toughness that you have bestowed on each of us that now wear the uniform in your honor.”

National Remembrance Day

Lawrence Parry wiped away his tears after he met Trump.

Trump proclaimed the men as heroes and thanked them for their service. Michael Ganitch, who wore a Hawaiian shirt, sang “Remember Pearl Harbor” as Trump delivered his remarks.

USS Ward

The USS Arizona is the first ship that pops into anyone’s head when they hear Pearl Harbor. But did you know the USS Ward fired the first American shots during WWII, an hour before the attack? From ABC News:

At 6:45 a.m. that day, the destroyer’s crew spotted a Japanese midget submarine.

A full hour before the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor by air, the Ward sank the Japanese sub — considered the first American shots in World War II. It would later be revealed that four other Japanese vessels were lurking near the harbor before the attack.

The USS Ward sank three years later off the coast of the Philippines:

With a fire raging on board, the crew was forced to abandon the ship before the nearby USS O’Brien deliberately sank the Ward. The O’Brien’s commanding officer at the time was Lt. Cmdr. William Outerbridge, who was in charge of the Ward during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Remarkably, the entire crew of the Ward survived the ordeal. As for the destroyer, it rested unseen at the bottom of Ormoc Bay — that is, until Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen’s expedition crew decided to find it.

Allen’s project found the USS Ward and brought images of the sunken ship to the surface for the first time. The expedition also captured images “of five Japanese ships on which more than 4,000 men lost their lives during a battle on Oct. 25, 1944 — still considered the largest naval battle in history, according to the Allen Project.”


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Hero has a singular definition…..

We are here for the 12/7 Parade in Waikiki tonite. As I type the salute from Fort DeRussy is going off. When in Hawaii take the family to Pearl and walk the Fort DeRussy museum , free, in the middle iof Waikiki. Where I was drafted ( but given a deferment).

regulus arcturus | December 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm

The singing of Remember Pearl Harbor was fantastic, and then Trump says, “Let’s go to the Oval Office.”

Mr. President, well done.

We use the word hero too often…
These men are the definition of a hero…

And that idiot reporter asking about Franken at the end… what an a$$
So disrespectful of the moment and these men…

I actually knew the story of Joe George. One of the men he saved from the Arizona, Donald Stratton, wrote a book about it. And a bit more of his story than that one day.

“All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor Hardcover – November 22, 2016
by Donald Stratton (Author),‎ Ken Gire (Author) ”

Joe George was a big strong man, a boxer. George also liked to drink and get into fights outside of the ring, so he was frequently in trouble. Which is why he didn’t hesitate to disobey orders, he had already been in trouble so many times one more wouldn’t hurt. When he saw the six men standing on on a gun director platform on one of the masts he threw them a monkey ball; a light line with a weight on the throwing end with a main line attached to the other end. It took several tries, and Stratton and his five friends started to get a little worried. They were stuck; they couldn’t climb down as the Arizona was a ablaze. If George couldn’t throw the line to them nobody else would be strong enough to do it. Finally George was able to throw the line to them.

George went back to work. He didn’t even wait to see if all six men from the Arizona made it across. And it was no sure thing they would, as all of them were badly burned to varying degrees. The fuel oil was burning in the harbor, and all of them painfully felt the heat on their burned parts of their bodies. Stratton’s hands were raw. Going “down hill” wasn’t too tough, but then he had to climb up as he reached the midpoint and the line sagged. But he and the other five made it.


“…One by one, each of us miraculously made it to the other side. We hadn’t fallen. And we hadn’t been hit by machine gun fire. There wasn’t enough adrenaline in us to get us through that ordeal. We had help from the good Lord, I’m sure of that. One thing is for certain: had Joe George not stood up for us – had he not been a rebel and refused to cut the line connecting the Vestal to the Arizona – we would have cooked to death on that platform. If anyone deserved a Medal of Honor that day, in my opinion, it as him. And I know at least five others who would second that.

Years later Joe was interviewed about what he did that day:

George: ‘I was up on the superstructure deck, and that was up in the area where the silvering shop was. That part of the deck was the only part of the deck that was even with the Arizona. The Arizona, although the main deck was probably lower than ours, she drew more water. But at that particular place that these people were trying to get over; they were surrounded by fire on the Arizona. This was on the superstructure deck was the Vestal was in correspondence with the level and height of the Arizona. They were stranded on the ship, and they were trying to get off, and they were surrounded by fire.’

[Interviewer Ronald] Marcello: ‘And so this is when you threw the line?’

George: ‘That’s correct.’

Marcello: ‘How many people came across on that line? Do you know?’

George: ‘I’ll tell you, I didn’t wait to see because I secured it on my ship as tight as I could. They forehanded themselves over, because I couldn’t help them, I went about my business.’

I have a little more to add to hat Joe said. After he had thrown us the line that had saved our lives, his captain came up to him and berated him for what he had done. The captain, you see, had ordered him earlier to cut all lines to the Arizona so they could get away from her. She was burning intensely and he feared her blowing up and destroying his ship.

When he came to Joe, they had a heated exchange. I heard this second hand but this is how the conversation went.

‘Cut the line,’ ordered the captain.

‘I’m not going to leave those men out there.’ Joe stood his ground, and he pointed at us, looking straight at me.

‘I’m going to court-martial you if you don’t.’

‘Go ahead and court-martial me then. I’m not going to leave those men to die.’

The captain knew the kind of man Joe was, strong as an ox and just as stubborn. The captain left and Joe shouted his encouragement to us.

I still remember what he said when it was my turn. ‘C’mon, kid. You can make it…'”

    Anonamom in reply to Arminius. | December 8, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Interesting post. Thank you for sharing those excerpts, Arminius.

      Arminius in reply to Anonamom. | December 9, 2017 at 5:38 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpts. Donald Stratton is a real hero, too. As I recall it took well over a year for him to recover from his burns. He had been bedridden so long he had to learn to walk again. That task was compounded by the fact that because he had been bedridden so long his feet simply flopped down, so to walk again he had to kick his feet up. He was medically discharged from the Navy as the medical board decided he would never be fit to serve again. The way it was back then he had to find his own way home back to Nebraska. He hitchhiked from San Diego.

      After a few months at home he decided he couldn’t leave his friends to fight the war without him. To overcome the Navy medical board’s decision the Navy made him do boot camp all over again. At first he had trouble keeping up on the runs but soon he was leading his fellow boots, and the Navy recognized his leadership abilities by putting him in charge. Then he returned to the Pacific war on the USS Stack (DD-406).

      Another excerpt:

      All the Gallant Men

      pps 184-186

      “…Before we headed out to battle in the Pacific Theater, we sailed into Pearl Harbor, stopping to refuel and resupply. As you can imagine, I had mixed feelings about returning there, unsure how it would hit me. Most on the ship knew I had served on the Arizona, They had seen my scars, asked about my experiences.

      As we made our way slowly into the harbor, we passed the Arizona. I had not seen it since the morning of the attack. I could not believe my eyes. All the superstructure had been cut away. – for scrap no doubt. Where once a great ship was moored, there remained only its ghostly visage, hovering eerily beneath the water’s surface

      Every emotion within me started rising, quietly pooling in my eyes.

      Then something happened I wasn’t expecting, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for. A call came over the public address system, mustering all hands to the fantail. When everyone was there the captain called out, ‘Is Stratton here?’

      I raised my hand, ‘Here, sir.’

      He waived me over. Then without fanfare of any kind he presented me with a medal. The Purple Heart. The entire crew applauded. The Captain didn’t give a speech, and he didn’t ask me to give one. He just handed me the medal and that was it – a simple gesture of respect and recognition.

      I was relieved. I hadn’t been asked to speak – if I had opened my mouth, I doubt I would have been able to control my emotions. Even so, it was an extremely difficult moment for me. It would take me years to find my voice where the Arizona was concerned, but that display of unity and honor shown by my shipmates on the Stack as we glided past the remains of the Arizona was a moment of healing, as my hospital treatment had been. Though I may have left Pearl Harbor on a stretcher, I had returned on a destroyer. I had recovered my strength, as had my country. I was ready to meet what was coming – and I was bringing a boatload of reinforcements with me…”

      I highly recommend the book, if you’re interested in this sort of story.

At a time when the Constitution has become an all-but-irrelevant piece of parchment, we should point out an error in this post that should have scandalized us: the assertion (in the title of the first linked video) that FDR declared war. According to the Constitution that Joe George swore to support when he entered the Navy (see below), only Congress may declare war. That’s why FDR had to ask Congress to declare war, rather than declare it himself.

How instructive, that we’ve become so accustomed to the Imperial Presidency that a gaffe like that goes by unremarked.

Serviceman’s Oath, as of the time of Joe George’s enlistment:

“I, [name], do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the constitution of the United States.”

“I, [name], do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” The next section of that chapter specified that “the said troops shall be governed by the rules and articles of war, which have been established by the United States in Congress assembled, or by such rules and articles of war as may hereafter by law be established.”