Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reminiscences from Pearl Harbor Day, 1941

My dad wrote his memoirs about ten years ago, spending many hours at his computer thinking and reminiscing about his past.  My brother captured it all, making a book from his writings.  Dad is now 93 and living in a care center with Alzheimer's, so today he could not tell us anything about his years in the navy or what he recalled about being a test pilot in the 1940's.  But he did write his memoirs when his mind was sharp.

This morning after listening to the news, I thought about when Dad was in the navy and a part of The Greatest Generation.  I wondered if he had written anything about Pearl Harbor Day in 1941, so I looked into his book.  Sure enough, he did write a short piece about what he remembered on Pearl Harbor Day in 1941. Here it is.
On December 7, 1941…
The U. S. Navy accepted me as a candidate to be an Aviation Cadet. I was assigned to the Elimination Base at the Naval Air Station at Dallas. I reported on October 1, 1941, and completed primary flight training. I received orders to report to the N. A. S. Corpus Christi and to a pool of future Aviation Cadets. 
It was Sunday morning, December 7. 1941, after reveille, I dropped from my top bunk and dressed in khaki for a full day ashore in Corpus Christi. Mother and Dad were visiting the Ward Terrells, friends from Junction. I met them for church services and then we visited with Maurine Motley, a distant cousin from Hollis, OK. She was a teacher. We drove around the city and returned to her apartment. A lady came out a door and told us to turn on the car radio for the NEWS! The announcement and description of the Pearl Harbor attack was a shock to us. The sun was low in the sky in Texas but it was morning in Hawaii. 
I returned to the base by bus and was prepared for some drastic changes, but I noticed nothing different. We still drilled, had musters and formations. I remained in the Pool until after Christmas. My orders were to report to Pensacola N.A.S. as an Aviation Cadet.
The Way It Was... Recollections and Reflections of Charles Wilson McCarroll, Jr.

Charles W. McCarroll in 1941
Charles W. McCarroll, 2011
From The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw:
These men and women came of age in the Great Depression, when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague. They had watched their parents lose their businesses, their farms, their jobs, their hopes. They had learned to accept a future that played out one day at a time Then, just as there was a glimmer of economic recovery, war exploded across Europe and Asia. When Pearl Harbor made it irrefutably clear that America was not a fortress, this generation was summoned to the parade ground and told to train for war. They left their ranches in Sully County, South Dakota, their jobs on the main street of Americus, Georgia, they gave up their place on the assembly lines in Detroit and in the ranks of Wall Street, they quit school or went from cap and gown directly into uniform. 
They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. 
They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting, often hand to hand, in the most primitive conditions possible, across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria. They fought their way up a necklace of South Pacific islands few had ever heard of before and made them a fixed part of American history: islands with names like Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa. They were in the air every day, in skies filled with terror, and they went to sea on hostile waters far removed from the shores of their homeland. 
When the war was over, the men and women who had been involved, in uniform and in civilian capacities, joined in joyous and short-lived celebrations, then immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted. They were mature beyond their years, tempered by what they had been through, disciplined by their military training and sacrifices. They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. They stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith. 
They were a new kind of army now, moving onto the landscapes of industry, science, art, public policy, all the fields of American life, bringing to them the same passions and discipline that had served them so well during the war. 
They were not perfect. They made mistakes. They allowed McCarthy-ism and racism to go unchallenged for too long. Women of the World War II generation, who had demonstrated so convincingly that they had so much more to offer beyond their traditional work, were the under-pinning for the liberation of their gender, even as many of their husbands resisted the idea. When a new war broke out, many of the veterans initially failed to recognize the differences between their war and the one in Vietnam.
It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order.


  1. Wonderful photos of your father.

    A touching commemoration. Thanks. We owe them so much.

  2. Such brave men and women. My grandfathers were enlisted during WWII, one army and one navy.


Your comments mean a lot to me. Thank you so much for reading my post, and heaps more hugs and thank you's for leaving a note!