Pearl Harbor vets recall earlier surprise attack
Japanese fighters strafed the administration building at Pearl Harbor’s submarine base. Panic seized Ray Daves, a 20-year-old Navy radioman.
Then he fought back. He climbed to the building’s roof, grabbed the handles of a .30-caliber machine gun and opened fire. He dived behind a three-foot brick wall when the fighters shot back.
Sixty years later, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., brought back the feeling of shock that Daves carried for days after the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor.
He’s not alone. Following the attacks, politicians and government officials drew comparisons to Pearl Harbor, until Tuesday the worst assault on American soil ever.
“We have been attacked like we haven’t since Pearl Harbor,” said Adm. Robert J. Natter, the commander of the Navy’s Atlantic fleet.
But Tuesday’s attack was more heinous, said Daves and some of the 10 other Inland Northwest survivors of Pearl Harbor who were contacted for comment on Tuesday.
“It’s so much worse than Pearl Harbor. It’ll be so much more loss of life,” said Jim Sinnott of Spokane.
His memories of Pearl Harbor came back fresh Tuesday morning, reminding the former Navy radioman of the burned men he pulled out of the water just after the attack.
Ray Garland, 78, of Coeur d’Alene, relived his memories of watching the USS Arizona blow up. A Marine private, Garland was a baseball’s throw from the Arizona during attacks by Japanese planes.
“It looked like a horrific explosion - just like the plane that hit the building,” said Garland, 78, referring to the televised images of a hijacked jet crashing into the World Trade Center. “When that airplane hit that building, it was just as bad or worse.”
Daves’ shock lasted for days after Pearl Harbor, he said. He empathized with the New Yorkers he saw wandering aimless just after the World Trade Center collapsed.
“When a tragic event like this happens, you’re working on nerves. When you have time later to assess your thoughts, you think, `Why did this happen?”’
“They didn’t have anything to fight back with,” said Daves. “They didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Joe Wagner, an Army Air Corps mechanic who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, notes that the Japanese attacked military installations at Pearl Harbor, and had strategic reasons to do so.
Plowing hijacked airplanes into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a cowardly act that struck mostly civilians, Wagner said.
He, Garland and Daves noted that Pearl Harbor prompted an immediate response by the U.S.: Men enlisted, and ship- and plane-building factories cranked.
“I think this will probably affect American people just like that did,” Garland said. “They don’t like being pushed around, so somebody is going to have to pay.”
But Garland doesn’t expect a war.
“This is a bunch of radicals,” Garland said. “That’s what they are trying to do is disrupt our way of life. That’s their goal. We can’t let them do that.”
Davies also said that Pearl Harbor unified the U.S. in the common goal of defeating the Japanese. He wondered if the same would happen after Tuesday’s attacks.
“We need to remember that we have the greatest country in the world,” Daves said. “We’ve got to have faith in our leaders, or else we’ll split in different directions.
“I hope we can live a normal life, getting aboard a plane again without feeling like this is my last plane ride.”