5 Pearl Harbor Heroes You Need To Know About
November 18, 2016
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, men didn’t have much time to think about their actions. They simply did what they could do, or what they thought they needed to do, at the time. Most didn’t consider that their actions were “heroic,” but after the attack, the stories of some of these Pearl Harbor heroes of that fateful day came to be known.
There were many heroes on that day. Here are the stories of five of them.
Samuel Fuqua, a Lieutenant Commander, was enjoying his breakfast aboard the USS Arizona when she was hit. Running outside he was knocked to the ground by a bomb exploding nearby, but he got back on his feet and began to direct survivors to evacuate the ship. He was among the last men to abandon the ship, making sure the men were safe before him. He commandeered a boat, picked up survivors from the waters, and made his way back to the shore. For his heroism, he received a Medal of Honor.
George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were army air corps pilots who were sleeping after a big night of dancing and poker. Woken by exploding bombs and machine guns, they threw on their pants from the night before, ran to the airfield, and took off in their P-40 fighters. They took on the enemy in the air and by the end of the engagement, they had shot down at least six fighters and bombers. They were each awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Taylor was also awarded a Purple Heart.
Doris Miller, the “unexpected hero,” was a cook on the USS West Virginia and on the morning of the attack, he was doing his usual routine – serving breakfast and collecting dirty dishes. When the attack commenced, Miller simply knew he had to do something to help, anything that could potentially stop the attack. So he fired a .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun at the Japanese planes. What’s so extraordinary is that Miller hadn’t ever had proper combat training, yet on that fateful day he shot down numerous planes and kept on firing until the gun had no ammunition left. The ammunition ran out, but Miller wasn’t finished, helping carry wounded men to safety. At the time, he said, “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine”. Millers heroism was recognized the following year when he was awarded the US Navy Cross, the second-highest medal for valor. He was the first African American to ever receive such a high-level award.
The final story is one that was untold until the late 1950s, when it featured in a book. It’s the story of civilian George Walters, who was a dockyard worker. Walters was in charge of a 50-ton rolling crane that sat next to the USS Pennsylvania. When the attack began, Walters moved his crane backwards and forwards, shielding the boat from bombers and fighters. He even tried hitting the planes to knock them out of the sky. On the ship, the gunners at first thought he was annoying, but then realized he had the best spot to see aircraft coming at them (50 feet in the air), so they used the crane as a guide and were able to return fire. Many believe Walters helped them to shoot down up to 10 planes, and that he saved the Pennsylvania.