by James M. Hoover, USAF (Ret), CACM, ©2021
(Dec. 18, 2021) — The United States of America recently memorialized the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The news was full of stories and survivors descended upon Hawaii in wheelchairs and double canes. Those who participated in this war are in their mid-to-late 90s and several were over 100 years of age.
I’m 75 and recall my father’s story from his personal experience of the event. Inscribing his words below is my great honor, not just to my father but for those who forfeited their lives and four hard years of a nation sacrificing its entire existence toward the goal of survival against two enemies coming from both directions to rule over them.
My father, James Henry Hoover, a product of the Depression, joined the United States Navy in 1939 and after boot camp was assigned to Pearl Harbor. He was a Quartermaster; in the Navy that was a ship’s navigator, with particular responsibility for steering and signals. On smaller ships he would assemble all the charts (maps of oceans), do messaging with two signal flags (semaphore) according to an alphabetic code, or signal other ships with a flashing light so as not to break radio silence.
My dad’s ship, the USS Richmond, a light cruiser, left Pearl Harbor just before the bombing on a mission to Valparaiso, Chile. They were on a goodwill tour with Chilean officers.
Dad was at the helm room on the bridge with the ship’s Captain examining the charts as the ship proceeded out in the Pacific Ocean about 5000 nautical miles from Hawaii. He was not allowed to address the Captain unless questioned.
The Radioman, nicknamed “Sparks,” rushed to the bridge and informed the Captain that there was a FLASH message for him. FLASH is the second highest in order of precedence. The urgency factors of messages were ROUTINE, PRIORITY, IMMEDIATE, FLASH AND FLASH OVERRIDE; the latter was to go directly to the President of the United States. Knowing the importance of this telegram but needing to keep his eyes focused on the task at hand of steering the ship, the Captain ordered Sparks to read the telegram aloud to him. My father listened as he had ears to hear. Telegrams were expensive and thus very short, like “Mom STOP, I’m home safely STOP Love Dorothy STOP.”
Not in this case: it was two pages long and detailed the bombing of the Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Army Air Base, and other facilities. When the telegram was read, they were all aghast.
The ship was soon ordered to drop off the Chilean officers in Panama and return to Pearl Harbor. As the Richmond entered Pearl Harbor and approached Ford Island, my father related that he was horror-struck by the devastation of the once so elegantly beautiful island and the destroyed ships inside the harbor. The damage was like nothing he had ever seen, he later reported to me.
Dad rarely discussed or reminisced of this sighting until 2007.
In April 2007 my dad and I went to Hawaii, and while there he insisted on visiting the USS Arizona National Memorial. (Virtual tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUF-C14TD6o ) When the skiff landed at the on ramp to the Memorial, he limped to the back wall and eventually found the name “Jenkins” listed on the wall that memorializes those sailors who remained inside the USS Arizona to this day. Dad took pictures of the name and stood in silence. Little did I realize that he was saying his final goodbye to “Jenkins.” This man was Seaman Second Class (S2c) Robert Henry Dawson Jenkins, USN from Texas.
Dad later that day explained that this man was his best friend on the USS Richmond and that just prior to the Richmond’s departure from Pearl, Jenkins had been promoted and transferred to the Arizona. He was the stenographer for the admiral. Jenkins is one of the 1,177 sailors who perished on the Arizona that fateful day, 80+ years ago.
Dad passed away soon after, in December 2007, his life completed amid the closure that was awaited for 66 years.
James M. Hoover, CACM
Captain, USAF (Retired)
Captain Hoover, Sir:
In accompanying your Dad to pay his final respects to his shipmate, and telling his story here, you did your Dad, Quartemaster Hoover, proud…as proud as a son could.
My Dad, an Army Veteran of “The Battle of the Bulge”, was born December 7, 1915. Dad passed in 1996 and was reunited with his buddies in Arlington National Cemetery. My Mom, Dad’s forever best friend and sweetheart, passed on December 7, 2014 and was reunited forevermore with her “Jimmy” in Arlington National Cemetery.
Living only about a 30-minute drive from Arlington National Cemetery and the war memorials in D.C., I had the honor of participating in the “Reading of Names” at the WWII Memorial on the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day and The Battle of the Bulge.
Merry Christmas, Sir
God Bless Our Troops
God Bless Our Veterans
God Bless Our Fallen Heroes
And God Bless The United States of America
James P. Carter, Ambassador to Maryland
Honor And Remember
I went to Pearl Harbor a MAC troop carrier in 1962 on our way to Korea. I can still feel those feelings I had as we passed the Monument. Thank God you had that quality time with him before he passed. Yes he must have been very proud of your Service.
It was good of you to accompany your father for his last farewell.
He must have been very proud of you, to make Captian.