On December 7, 1941, U.S. military servicemen woke up to what should have been a normal Sunday morning on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, on the south side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. But everything changed at 7:55 a.m., when the Japanese launched a surprise attack. During the just under two hours that followed, Japanese planes attacked in two waves, focusing on eight U.S. battleships and either sinking or damaging each one. The assault also damaged 13 ships of other types, bringing the total number to 21. Additionally, the Japanese struck several American airfields with the goal of destroying planes on the ground to minimize counter-attacks by the U.S. The raids left 2,335 U.S. servicemen dead and 1,143 wounded.
Founder of the iHistory WW2 Contest, Jeffrey Worthington, had the honor of interviewing Scotty Burrows, a local New Mexican WWII veteran who was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.
Burrows was the bugler at Pear Harbor the morning of December 7th, 1941. He was standing with two other Marines at the flag poll waiting to sound morning First Call, but when Japanese planes screaming overhead, Burrows immediately called “Air Defense” instead. He was ordered to grab a rifle and run down to the hospital because a Japanese plane had crashed into it and they wanted to see if there were any survivors they could take hostage. Upon arriving at the hospital he found no survivors from the plane. He was then ordered to help guard a nearby airfield in case of a Japanese invasion, where he spent one of the longest nights of his life. It was a common belief at the time that Japan might try to invade the islands that night. For the next 14 days, Burrows was assigned to play Taps for the burials of the Americans killed in the attack.
Burrows served the rest of World War II as a Marine in the Pacific, and was part of the Battle of Tassafaronga aboard the USS Minneapolis. Sadly, like too many WWII veterans, Burrows passed away a few years ago. I once asked him if he had advice to today’s youth. He responded, “Go to your library and learn. Go to the library and read. Go and listen. Watch the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.”
This Pearl Harbor Day, join us in remembering and honoring those who were lost 72 years ago today, as well as those who lived to tell the story.
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