Few days in American history were as dark as Dec. 7, 1941.
That morning, the world changed. A surprise Japanese aerial attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii dealt a major blow the Pacific Fleet, killing 2,403 U.S. personnel and damaging 19 warships. Total American casualties numbered 3,581, while the blow to the nation’s psyche was felt across the mainland. World War II could no longer be avoided.
Through the smoke, there was hope.
American courage, on display in countless stories throughout the war, was in no short supply through the Pearl Harbor raid. Here are just some of the stories of heroism during that day of infamy.
A lieutenant commander aboard the USS Arizona, which was devastated in the attack and remains sunken in the harbor, became the battleship’s senior officer after a bomb detonated the ship’s ammunition magazine. While he briefly lost consciousness during the attack, he was able to direct firefighting efforts and rescue burning sailors. He directed the ship to be abandoned, staying aboard until he was sure all personnel who could be saved were off the ship. For his courage, Fuqua was awarded the Medal of Honor in March 1942.
An Austro-Hungarian immigrant and World War I veteran, he served at Chief Watertender on the USS Utah. After the battleship received a torpedo hit to the hull, Tomich returned to the his station in the boiler room, evacuated shipmates and shutting down the boilers before the Utah sank with him aboard. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, but no kin could be found to posthumously give it to until 2006, when a Admiral Harry Ulrich presented it to Tumich’s family members in Croatia.
George Welch and Kenneth Taylor
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