USS Honolulu Survivor Charles Mitchell
October 4, 2017
Charles Mitchell, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving aboard the USS Honolulu (CL-48), passed away on September 28th, 2017, at the age of 94.
When we discuss the attack on Pearl Harbor, we’re often so focused on the eight battleships that were the prime targets of the Japanese attack that we almost forget that many other ships were present during the attack. Though the battleships bore the brunt of the damage, they weren’t the only ones to suffer.
One such ship was the Honolulu, a light cruiser stationed at Pearl Harbor. During the attack, she suffered minor damage from a near-miss bomb. Her hull was struck by debris, though the damage was easily repaired. On board the Honolulu, however, were men who suffered more than the ship herself, both physically and mentally.
Having survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, Charles Mitchell could vividly remember the details of December 7th, 1941, specifically the bomb that exploded nearby.
Mitchell had been working below decks on the Honolulu when the bomb dropped from the sky, barely missing her hull. Though the ship wasn’t struck directly, the damage was enough to trap Mitchell, a powder man, in his station. For the duration of the attack, Mitchell was trapped inside the Honolulu.
2,403 Americans lost their lives that day, but Charles Mitchell survived the attack to continue serving aboard the Honolulu, taking part in 12 sea battles of the Pacific Theater. After a series of escort missions in 1942, Mitchell and his fellow crew were sent to the Alaskan peninsula to combat Japan’s advances there.
In October of 1944, the Honolulu was struck by a torpedo and taken out of commission, leaving Mitchell to serve aboard the destroyer USS Adams (DM-27). During the final months of the war, Mitchell served aboard the Adams, including a minesweeping mission near Okinawa to prepare for the upcoming invasion.
After the war ended, Mitchell was discharged and left with multiple injuries, including double vision from shrapnel in his eye. Mitchell made it a point to attend several Pearl Harbor reunions. During one, he met Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead Japanese pilot of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Right up until his death, Charles Mitchell continued to serve his country by spreading his story of the Pearl Harbor attack, helping to ensure the nation never forgets.
More about the attack on Pearl Harbor and stories about men like Charles Mitchell can be found at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor. A walk through the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a step back in time, as the exhibits on display unfold the history of Pearl Harbor and World War II, giving more power to the stories that men like Mitchell spent much of their lives telling.