A Firsthand History Lesson on Pearl Harbor

Rene Humbert, 1964 In 1962, I was a seventh-grader at Washington Junior High School in Naperville, Ill. On Dec. 7, Mr. Humbert, our social studies teacher, put aside the regular curriculum to give his young pupils a firsthand account of Pearl Harbor.

Many years later, I contacted Mr. Humbert. He didn’t remember me (I was not a stellar student) but he was thrilled to get a phone call from one of his former charges who wanted to hear once more about Pearl Harbor.

Rene P. Humbert died in 2002 at the age of 81. I was his student in a much more formal era of American life. Male teachers wore coats and ties, and didn’t share much about their personal lives. I don’t even remember him mentioning that his brother’s fighter plane had been shot down in June 1944 over France.

What I learned many years later was that Mr. Humbert joined the Navy at 19, went through all of World War II and was called back for the Korean War. Perhaps one reason he was a little hard on us Baby Boomers in the wealthy suburbs of Chicago was because he didn’t graduate from high school, but got a GED and started college at the age of 31 under the G.I. Bill

Mr. Humbert was on the San Francisco, a heavy cruiser, during the Pearl Harbor attack and the ship was untouched except for shrapnel because the Japanese were concentrating on the larger ships. He was also in the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and  Guadalcanal. In one battle, Rear Adm. Dan Callaghan and Capt. Cassin Young were killed by a 14-inch shell that hit the San Francisco’s bridge.

What follows is his account. I have edited his brief biography very lightly after scanning a typewritten copy with my optical character recognition software. And I have incorporated portions of his Pearl Harbor account from the Pearl Harbor Survivors website.

Photo 1: Rene Humbert, Washington Junior High, 1964.

Photo 2: Rene Humbert, no date.

Rene Humbert MY NAVY LIFE

This is the story of my Navy life, and concerning some of my ship’s battles. I hope you find them interesting. When I joined the Navy, on Aug. 6th, 1940, I was sent to “Boot Camp”, at Newport, R.I. My company’s number was ” 13″, under Chief Boatswain’s Mate E. H. Bakersmith. We went through eight weeks of training, during that time of the year. Our company was shipped out, for sea duty, in October 1940.

Our company traveled by railroad, going cross-country, passing through Pueblo, Colorado, into San Pedro, California. Several ships took us to Pearl Harbor, on Oahu Island. I was assigned to the U.S.S. San Francisco — CA-38. Others, from our company were assigned to different ships: destroyers cruisers; battleships; and carriers at Pearl Harbor.

My rating at that time was as an Apprentice Seaman, and I was assigned to the deck force. Later, I could move up to Seaman 2/C. However, other opportunities came up, where I could strike out for other areas; Coxswain; Signalman; Quartermaster etc. I did choose to be in the “Black Gang,” down in the firerooms. The “Black Gang” received its name when ships were run by black coal as an energy source. I was assigned to #4 fireroom, under Chief Watertender Bories. Some others in my fireroom, were Rivett Watertender 1/C; Rose, Watertender 2/C, and various other fireman 1/C. and 2/C. Chief Bories later on became a Chief Warrant Officer.

At 0755 a.m., on Dec. 7th 1941, we were attacked by the Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor. My ship was tied up at dock 1010, in for repairs. Except for shrapnel falling, it wasn’t hit by the enemy planes. They had concentrated on our battleships, moored at Ford Island.

I was below decks, getting ready to go to church services being held  on the U.S.S. Minneapolis. Suddenly I heard several, deep, and tremendous explosions.

Not realizing, that were under attack by the Japanese Empire, I said to my shipmate, W.A. Hacke, F 1/C, who was standing in the aisle, near our bunks, “You know if this were real. I’d run right over you.” In effect, it was real Pearl Harbor was under attack, by the Japanese Navy. We were at war!

Being it was Sunday, and that we were in port and our ship was in the auxiliary watch.  I was not assigned on any watches for that day.  A buddy of mine, Don Harmon, who went through “boot camp” with me, at Newport, R.I., had been in the National Guard and was familiar with our rifle guns.  He had obtained one and was going to shoot at the airplanes as they passed by the stern of our ship.  I was just about to go with him, when our loudspeaker said, “Any below decks personnel, return to their engine rooms or firerooms.”  We had to try and get our ship back in shape.  This we did.

Our ship did not suffer any major damage except for falling shrapnel, which damaged our searchlights and the fireroom stacks towards the center of our ship.

After several days, our Navy had time to reorganize. We were going to Wake Island, to reinforce it. However, before we could get there, it had fallen. Our task force then proceeded to reinforce Midway Island. Several months passed and with it came the “Doolittle Raid,”  on Tokyo. This was followed up by our Coral Sea battle , in May, and the famous Midway Battle, in June of 1942.

Eventually, we invaded Tulagi and Guadalcanal, with several battles in that area. Our Navy suffered a tremendous defeat, at Savo Island, near Guadalcanal. We lost three heavy cruisers, plus another cruiser from Australia. We also lost several destroyers. This was in August. In October, we had engagement with the Japanese again, and were successful. Then there came our famous battle in November. Our ship did receive some damage on Nov. 12th, 1942, when a plane crashed into our 20-millimeter guns, on our starboard side. Our after control station was demolished, and sixteen men were killed, with 29 others wounded.

Then we got word that the “Tokyo Express” was coming down the slot. It was two hours before midnight, when we escorted our transports away from Guadalcanal. Then, we reversed course, to try and engage the enemy. Our task force consisted of 13 ships (five cruisers and eight destroyers). The Japanese were coming with two battleships, the “Hiei” and “Kirishima”, several cruisers, and 14 destroyers.

The U.S.S. San Francisco was in a dilemma, as she was between the two Japanese battleships. The “Kirishma” fired her 14-inch shells. striking our bridge, and killing our Rear Admiral Dan Callaghan, and our Captain. Cassin Young. It also killed several other shipmates in that bridge area. Captain Hara, on a Japanese destroyer, was about to send torpedoes into my ship on the starboard side. Fortunately for our ship, and us the crew, he fired at too close a range. His torpedoes  were within the 500-yard arming range of the warhead safety devices. These torpedoes did, in effect, hit our ship. but didn’t explode. We in the firerooms, definitely heard something strike our starboard side. We now assume that these were those torpedoes fired impetuously by Captain Hara.

After this battle we headed for New Caledonia Island. As I came up from this night battle the next morning, I was amazed at all the damage we had suffered. We had been hit by major caliber shells, 14-inch, 6-inch; 5-inch; 40-millimeter; 20- millimeter, and other caliber shells. Our ship received 45 major hits by the larger shells.

Suddenly, my ship made a violent turn, to escape a Japanese submarine’s torpedo attack. The torpedoes missed our ship, but did hit the cruiser, U.S.S. Juneau. There was a terrific explosion from the Juneau. The smoke and and explosion all occurred at the same moment. When the smoke cleared away, 30 seconds later — the JUNEAU was gone. This ship lost, all but 10 men. The five Sullivan brothers were on that ship.

Our ship had suffered many men killed or wounded. (70 killed and 103 wounded). We lost Admiral Dan Callaghan. Captain Cassin Young. Our ship was awarded (3) congressional Medal of Honors, and received the first Presidential Unit Citation, for this battle of Guadalcanal.

Members of our crew thought our ship had some magical charm about her. It made members of the crew. love this ship, all the more.

By the end of the war, our ship had earned 17 battle stars. Only the U.S.S. Enterprise earned more. She had earned 18 battle stars.

The cruiser U.S.S. San Francisco is gone now, but its name still goes on. Its name is on a nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. San Francisco (SSN-7-11) protecting our nation, in the same manner, as our cruiser once did long ago.

Background data of my ENLISTING in the NAVY.

Prior to my joining the NAVY, several things had happened.

I was working at the Houston Theater, (formerly Minsky’s Burlesque House). I had a job there cleaning up after the shows. Jewish Shows, put on by the Jewish Theater Group.

I had applied in 1938 for a minority cruise, when I was still 17 years old. However, bad teeth held me back. When France fell in 1939 to the NAZI Germans, under HITLER. my country started to build up its Naval Forces. Soon the recruiters from the Navy approached me in August of 1940, to enlist in the Naval Service of that time.

On Aug. 6th, 1940 1 was officially recruited for a full term of six years, instead of three under the former minority cruise.
I was sent to NEWPORT, R.I. for my “boot training.” Military drills; marching; firing our rifles; participating in sports; cleaning up our barracks; protecting the base — learning how to take care of ourselves, which included washing and drying our own clothes, and competing against other companies, doing the same things. My company was Company 13, under a Chief Boatswain’s Mate, BAKERSMITH.

Our boot camp days was for eight weeks of training and then we’d be assigned to other areas, including ships of the NAVY. On Oct. 13th, our company was assigned to go cross-country by train, to San Pedro. California. After a few days of liberty, in the LONG BEACH area nearby, we were assigned to a hospital ship, heading for the Hawaiian Islands, PEARL HARBOR to be exact. Most of the sailors, had never been to sea before, and a lot of them got seasick. I never did get seasick.

There were Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, and other ships at Pearl Harbor. My name came up and I was assigned to the U.S.S. San Francisco — CA-38. Some of our group went to other Cruisers, Battleships, Destroyers, and Carriers. Many of the Apprentice Sailors came from other stations. From the Great Lakes training station, from San Diego training station, and so on.

As an apprentice seaman, you usually are assigned on the Deck Gang. This means cleaning up the ship, learning how to load and fire the guns of the ship, and after awhile when you got to know a bit about the ship, you were asked where you’d like to go: on the guns; on the bridge learning how to be a Quartermaster; as an Electrician; as an machinist mate in the Engine room,as a Signalman, and using the blinker lights or flags, for giving out information: or in the Fireroom, working on the boilers that make steam to drive the ship through the water. There are many others, such as being a mechanic for our two planes we had on board, or as Baker or Cook that made meals for the crew. Each job had its good points and lots of hard work keeping everything shipshape. One of the main jobs was being a Boatswains Mate, and Coxswain, running the smaller boats , when in port.

Not really knowing what I’d really like to be, I put in for Quartermaster; as a Coxswain; and in the Fireroom. I had studied hard to pass a test to become Coxswain, and had good grades on my test. However, a Chief Engineering Officer, had looked at my grades in general, and approached me to join the so called “Black Gang”. This name came from when our ships were run by hard coal and one gets all blackened by the coal dust. However, our modern Navy ran on oil.

Prior to this, when I was in the Deck Force, I used to get up at 0530 (5.30 a.m.) and we used to scrub the well deck, which was made of hard wood. We used a block of stone, called (Holy Rollers) and scrubbed down this well deck. Sometimes the deck was very clean, but we holy rolled the deck anyway.

I was assigned to No. 4 fireroom. Each Fireroom had two boilers, and we had #1, #2, #3, and #4 firerooms. Out at sea we sometimes used all four firerooms, most of the time we used just three of them. When in port, we used just one fireroom, and just one boiler in that fireroom.

Every sailor had to experience MESS DUTY. That is serving our crew, and in washing our silverware and dishes, as well. Every one experienced this duty, at one time or another.

Our experiences prior to Pearl Harbor’s attack.

Once I became a Fireman third class. I had the opportunity to move up my ratings to Fireman 2nd class, on to Fireman 1st class. then on to Watertender 2nd class, then to Watertender 1st Class. and on to become Chief Petty Officer as a Water Tender

As a Fireman 2nd class, my duties were to make sure the steam pressure on our boilers, was up to 250 pounds pressure, constantly. I also had the duty of cleaning up in the bilges, underneath the floor plates, cleaning up any trash on the floor plates; repair valves that might be leaking, and making sure when in overhaul of our boilers, that the tubes within the boilers were scraped clean, and that the brickwork within the boilers was not damaged in any way. We also cleaned the inside of these tubes, by passing a adequate brush within the tubes.

As one became more proficient, and your rating went up, your duties became more difficult. You sometimes, went above where the blowers were, and made sure they were in good operation. Added to this you watched the water gauge on each boiler, making sure that the water was at the proper level. This was quite important, as lack of water within the tubes could cause serious damage to the boiler. There always was a 1st class Watertender, whether at sea or in port. At sea, there also was a Chief Petty Officer, and possibly a Chief Warrant Officer.

Each boiler had eight burners, and these were lit or turned off, depending on how much steam was needed during that period of time. That also meant one had to speed up the blowers, or slow them down, which meant one had to keep the stack clear. Black smoke coming out of the stack meant that you didn’t have enough air to keep your stack clean. If you had too much air, it meant that your stack would show a whiteness in the outside air, and that was not good either.

We also had an OIL KING, whose job was to make sure the ship was in perfect trim. This meant that the oil king had to shift oil from one side to the other to keep the ship in trim. He also had to test the water going into the boilers, making sure it was of the proper salinity. He had to report to the Captain, every day, on how much fuel was left in the tanks-how much was used every day, and how much water was used by the ship each day When in port, he had to requisition oil, for our ship, and make sure of how much was needed, and shifting the oil from tank to tank; keeping the ship in trim.

While on the U.S.S. San Francisco, I finally became a 2nd class Watertender. On a later ship, a tanker, I was put in the position of becoming the Oil King of the U.S.S. Canisteo AO-99.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, our ship, the U.S.S. San Francisco was assigned to a task force, and tried to relieve the men on WAKE ISLAND. We arrived too late, on Dec. 23rd, when WAKE ISLAND fell to the attacking Japanese. Our orders were to proceed to MIDWAY ISLAND, and leave additional planes, ammunition, and men there.

Raises in pay at that time were few and far between. I started our as an Apprentice Seaman, making only $21.00 per month in salary. My next raise when I became Seaman 1st, it went to $36.00 per month. Then when we attacked on Dec. 7th,1941, our pay raises went to $50.00 per month. Eventually, when I became 1st Class Water Tender, my pay was about $136.00 per month. However, one must understand, our meals were free, and our sleeping quarters were free, also. Our clothing was at a lower price, if we needed underwear; shoes, or uniforms.

Our first major engagement was at Salamau-and Lae. Through the Coral Sea; the Guadalcanal campaign; and part of the Midway Battle. I’ll tell you about these happenings at a later vignettes. Our ship was engaged in many of the Guadalcanal campaigns. Our main battle was the 13th of NOVEMBER, on a FRIDAY. Here, many men were killed or injured. It was a day that young boys became MEN.

Our ship at MARE ISLAND San Francisco area, Dec. 11th, 1942

Our ship had been severely damaged, and we proceeded to MARE ISLAND, for repairs.

While there, my Aunt Paulette Arnaud, came by way of train, to visit with me, and share my experiences with her. At this time, I was writing to a girl, from Colorado. Her name was Madeleine BALCH. I received leave, and went to Colorado by train. Upon my return. I received a dear John letter, and we broke up.

After our repairs, we escorted a convoy to Noumea on March the 10th, 1943. We finally went back to the Hawaiian Islands, and Pearl Harbor, and then proceeded on to the ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, with Task Force 16. We were involved in the reoccupation of ATTU, in May, and in KISKA in July. It was here that my Chief Warrant Officer Bories, my former Chief in number four fireroom, recommended me to go to school, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Naval Base there.

It was here I took further training on new boilers, and graduated as a First Class Watertender. I then was shipped to Flushing, New York, and assigned to a Seagoing Tugboat the ATR-6. My duties were, being in charge of the only fireroom, with two boilers, and having men underneath me. Two of these men are still my buddies, of today. They are Jerome Carpenter and his wife Bernie, and my other buddy, Harry England and his wife Margaret He became a second class water tender under me, on the ATR-6.

Our duties were simple, but necessary. We operated out of Morehead City, N.C. This is an area off of Cape Hatteras, and was involved in lots of hurricanes, ships torpedoed by the U-Boats. Also nearby, in Charleston .S.C., where they were building our AK transports, our ATR-6 sometimes went there to tow the unfinished ship on to New York for further outfitting.

One incident, during a tow, going up to New York, and during a hurricane, the tow broke, and we had to follow the towed ship, all the way to Key West, Florida, before we could safely recapture our tow. There were some men, a skeleton crew, aboard the AK, and by maneuvering, we fired a line across her bow, and reestablished our original tow, and on  back to New York.

My original enlistment was to expire in August 1946. Soon the fighting against the German Nazis ended in May of 1945. I was given the chance to early re-enlistment, for two more years. This I did, and was reassigned to the U.S.S. Canisteo, AO-99.
It denied me duty as a recruiter in Boston, Mass., but it gave me a chance to become Oil King on this ship, which went to the South Pole; to Gibraltar; to the Suez Canal; the Red Sea;to the Persian Gulf, and on to Bahrain. On our return trip we stopped at Morocco before returning to Norfolk, Virginia, our Naval Base there.

I will relate some incidents about our South Pole trip, with Admiral Byrd. Followed by our going to Rio de Janeiro, South America, and on to the places I mentioned above — Gibraltar — Suez Canal; Red Sea; Persian Gulf; Bahrain; Morocco, and Norfolk, Va.

I was assigned duty in Boston, Mass. when I was transferred to my new ship the U.S.S. Canisteo. This task force went from Norfolk, Va. through the PANAMA CANAL, and joined up with another task force which had come down from San Diego, CA. Eventually a third task force joined us, and it had Admiral Byrd in this task force. We left in December for our trip to the South Pole.

The seasons on the southern half of the hemisphere, was the season of summer there. My tanker supplied oil for fueling the ships in that task force, It was called Operation High Jump, It had several purposes. One was to test out our equipment in the sub-zero temperatures of the South Pole. Another reason was to see it the South Pole was an island, or just ice covering the seas there. Conditions proved it was an island covered with ice and snow. we used submarines to travel under the ice, and proved it was an island.

After in March, which began their winter, down in the southern hemisphere, we proceeded to South America, and went to Rio de Janeiro.. It was a very beautiful city

Our next phase was in going to: Gibraltar; Suez Canal, Red Sea; Bahrain; Morocco and Norfolk.

While at the South Pole

After we met up with the other task groups, we, as the main tanker, supplied them, all, with oil from our tanks, aboard our oiler.

There are lots of preparations in doing this: One of the main things, is putting the ships alongside; at a safe rate of speed; getting lines across to these ships, which lets you pass along heavier, rubberized, sections of our oil hoses, to the other ship; then connecting them from our outlet, and into the inlet of the other ship’s intake system. This all is done, without spilling a drop of oil into the sea below. If not done carefully, there is a danger that the oil lines may part. Also, the ships must maintain a definite average speed, and not have one ship pull away from the other. You also must have the steel mountings properly attached, so their isn’t any leakage from our outlet valve to their inlet valve.

The ships should be positioned, alongside, going at the proper speed, at 10 or 12 knots. Then you must get a line across to the other ship, allowing the men on the other ship, time to catch that line, and attach it to a larger line, (a hawser), that eventually can support the weight of the hoses which will be sent over. Once the oil lines are over, then you must see to it that the steel connections have proper gaskets, and attach them to the steel connections   aboard their own ship. (Bolts must be placed in these connections, in order that they can be satisfactorily tightened.) Once this is accomplished, you have to see that there aren’t any normal leaks in these hoses.

Now, comes the pumping of oil, from the tanker to the other ship. Making sure that that the oil being transferred, is taken out evenly, from one ship to the other. This is where the Oil King has to record how much oil is leaving, and being sure that there isn’t going to be any overflow. Constant communications must be done by each ship, so that there isn’t any overflow.
Once the tanks on the other ship indicates it is almost full, then the pumps on my ship have to be slowed down, and eventually stopped.

Removing the hoses is done in the opposite manner. First unhooking the steel plates, capping the steel connections; transferring the hose back again to the hawsers; then letting the hawsers come back aboard the tanker. Being sure that there isn’t any spill on the ships, or in the sea below. There have been cases when this hasn’t taken place, and oil is spilled on each ship, or into the sea below. This is not good environment, if this happens. Likewise, the Captain of your ship, might find fault with your operations, and possibly have you up for a court martial; and possibly you might lose your rating, from 1st class watertender to 2nd class watertender, or even worse.

This event happened to me in Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf. I was involved in a spill aboard my ship, the AO-99. My first class fireman wasn’t paying attention, and hundreds of gallons of oil, spilled over, onto my ship, down the sides, and into the docks below, while we were taking on oil from the oil fields, at Bahrain. Although I wasn’t technically responsible, just being Oil King, I was also held responsible. All of my crew, had to wash off, this oily mess, from our ship, and from the oil connections below. Any place it had done damage, was our responsibility. The cleaning took over 9 hours to clean up. It had happened at night, at seven that night. We worked until 0400 a.m. in the morning.

The fireman responsible lost his rating from fireman 1st class to a rating below; fireman 2nd class. I as Oil King, in charge was held responsible as well. I was given 20 hours of extra duty, aboard my ship. I only mention this, because in life, you are responsible for some things that happen, even though it may not always be your direct fault.

After fueling up, we proceeded our steps back to the Red Sea; back to the Suez Canal; to the Mediterranean Sea; to the Atlantic Ocean; and back to Norfolk, Va., our home base. There we unloaded our fuel oil into our own tanks, at our base. Everyone was very careful not to have another spill.

Shortly afterwards, my enlistment was about to expire, and due to new rules, by the NAVY, I wasn’t able to qualify for another seven months. I couldn’t take the Chief Watertender’s test, so I decided to get out of the NAVY. My enlistment expired on April 28th, 1948, a total of 7 years, 8 months, and 22 days. When the Korean War broke out; because of my reserve status, I was called back on Sept. 1st, 1950, to the Great lakes Training Base, in the Chicago area.

The next part of my vignettes will be about our lives, during the Korean War, and the start of my college life, and the start of our family in NAPERVILLE, Illinois.

My early college days, and my first teaching job in ELMHURST.

Aside, from wanting to be a teacher, I had a desire to take up some sports, which were denied me by partaking in World War II. I tried to be on the Football team; the Tennis team, the Baseball team; the Track team; and I loved to play indoor handball at our facility at Merner Field House.

I made the second team in Football, and I was sixth man on the Tennis team; In Baseball I didn’t qualify, as I had a tendency to strike out too often; In Track, I wasn’t quite good enough to compete with the younger trackmen. In Handball, I received quite a few lessons from lots of players, but two outstanding ones were, Tex Hoesch, and an older player, who was a minister by the name of Dr. Howe. Dr. Howe was an expert at the short game, and he let you do all the running. I learned quite a bit of tactics from him Tex Hoesch was a very good player, with a definite kill shot, that came quite often.

Being that I was a student who was using the G.I. Bill, and I started out when I was 31 years old. As a Freshman, at my college, I was competing with lots of younger players. I was a bit slower, on our football team, but I did have lots of energy, which I put to good use. I recall, our Football team wasn’t too good then, but on a write -up by the Butler College newspaper, they said,”North Central doesn’t have too much of a team. However, they have one of the oldest football players in the nation, playing for them.” That was me!

Never having played Tennis before, in competition, I did have the desire to play hard. I finally, made the team. It was against Augustana, where I had my first victory.

In Track, my running ability was fair, but I only was eligible for the short sprints, and there were too many younger Trackmen better qualified for those events.

My entering, North Central College, was based on my G.E.D. percentile scores, which let me enter this college.
After spending almost eight years in the Navy, and four more years at different jobs, starting once again as a student, was quite hard. I  had to learn once again on how to study; learning many new techniques in writing term papers ;adjusting to my new married life. Working part-time at different jobs; and just settling down to this different lifestyle, was a new ballgame for me. Before I finally graduated, I went to summer school, at Wheaton, Illinois to make up my deficiency of starting in January of 1951.

Also, we started our family, in June of 1953, with our daughter, Sharon.

Finally, I graduated, in June of 1954. My new job, was in Elmhurst, Illinois, in the sixth grade. It was at a brand new school, called EMERSON. My Principal was Miss Johnson. Thus began my teaching career. This first class of mine, I still correspond with several of my now, older students. It has been 42 years since 1954.

I last saw 6 of these former students, while I was traveling in Illinois, back in 1952. We had a reunion in Naperville, Illinois. This class will always be remembered by myself. We shared several outstanding events, one was; starting out with the first Outdoor Education class, with this class. By this time, we had our second daughter, Cathy, in 1955, and another daughter, Lynne, in 1956.

In 1956, I was given the chance to move back to a school in Naperville, Illinois. It was at Washington Junior High School. Once again I was blessed with earnest, lovable students, who wanted to learn. In 1957, I began teaching Seventh Grade students, in a core class, of Social Studies and English. In my teaching career, these two subjects were my main courses. I did spend two years as a Vice-Principal, at Washington Junior High School. However, I did miss teaching, and I had the opportunity to go to, Corvallis, OREGON, as a teacher, in the Fourth Grade. I taught there for 2 years, before shifting to a Middle School, HIGHLAND MIDDLE SCHOOL, in Corvallis, OR. There I remained, until I was forced to retire due to a stroke, in 1983.

After this retirement, from my teaching, I decided to do another job, that of clerking, at Fred Meyer’s, in Corvallis. This I did until 1992. Now I am officially retired from any job. Thus we come to my retirement life, since 1992.

My retirement life since 1992

In 1992 we decided to make a trip to St. Lo, France, and other areas of France such as ;Avignon, Nice etc. However, the main purpose was to renew our friendship with Richard CATHERINE, Vice-Mayor of St. Lo.

He was instrumental in discovering exactly where my brother, 2nd Lt. Patrick E. Moran had been shot down. My brother, had taken the name of Moran, when my mother re-married. There were several other persons involved in discovering where my brother was shot down, one being Mr. Michel Leteinturier, a historian, and the present Mayor of the town, of Montchauvet, France, Mr. Ernest DODEMAN.

Through these efforts, and the use of a metal detector, they were able to discover, after 48 years, the exact spot, where  my brother’s plane struck the ground. It was in 1993 using the metal detectors, that my brother’s cigarette lighter was picked up from beneath the ground.

In 1994, we once again returned, for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. This was in June of 1994.

Most of the activities of this anniversary took place on the Normandy coast, where our Armed Forces took the initiative to go to such famous places as — OMAHA BEACH; UTAH BEACH; POINT la HOC, and other areas, near Caen, France. Should you visit there, you will see rows and rows of crosses, honoring the men who gave their lives, that all allies might be free.

For ourselves; my wife, and my youngest daughter, Lynne, went there, in the town of Montchauvet, which had planned a Memorial, for my brother, 2nd Lt. Patrick E. MORAN. whose plane had fallen there.

The plaque, which was attached to the monument, said, that he was being honored, for his part, in giving back freedom, to the citizens of FRANCE, from the NAZI’S occupation. His plane had fallen, on June 23rd, 1944, 17 days after the initial invasion, on D-day.

We also attended, a meeting in St. Lo, where our Armed forces were being honored, for their part in freeing France from this Nazi occupation. Our friend, Richard Catherine, was in charge of preparations. at St. Lo. Survivors of an Army outfit, came back to France for this dedication, to them. It was unfortunate, that St. Lo was completely demolished, as our Army moved across France. Forcing the the Germans back to their own country, in Germany.

Richard Catherine, his wife Isabelle, and their good friends, the Bleds, came over to visit us in 1995, in July. We had fun entertaining them. While here, they asked my granddaughter if she would like to visit them. in FRANCE. She said yes , she would. She then asked us, if we could take her to France , in 1996. That’s how we prepared to go back to France, in 1996.
We were delayed slightly, as I had to go through my second by-pass surgery, in April of 1996. After my recovery , we finally went back to France, in August of 1996.

We spent some interesting days in LONDON, and then we went to visit several relatives and friends throughout parts of FRANCE. We went through the Chunnel to Paris, and then to Avignon; Guethary, Strasbourg; Berstett; Bayeux; and finally St. Lo.
Everywhere the hospitality was outstanding. These friends and relatives were so gracious.

We returned from Paris, through the De Gaulle Airport. Our homeward flight took about 14 hours. When we landed at Portland, OR.: Jenny’s folks were there to meet us.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1941, Education, History, World War II and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Firsthand History Lesson on Pearl Harbor

  1. Alan Held says:

    Excellent piece, Larry!!! Thanks so much for this.

  2. Steven Bibb says:

    Great story. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sam Flowers says:

    I am glad he was able to write his WW2 memories for others to read and understand how life was during those turbulent times. We must never forget what those service men went through to save the day.

  4. Mary Mallory says:

    So nice to hear the story of the average seaman during the war and what it was like. He seems proud of his service, and what he accomplished. May we never forget!

  5. Earl Boebert says:

    The damaged flag bridge of the USS San Francisco can be seen at the USS San Francisco Memorial, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean near Point Lobos; off Lands End trail (officially on Merrie Way). It is a sobering sight.

  6. Darin Wright says:

    Sir i would like to talk to you about your wonderful piece you ahve written. This was my Grandfather.

  7. Nicole Wright says:

    So proud to say this is my husbands grandpa and my brother in-law who left a commet Darin Wright. Thank you for writing this.

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