By Joe Ragonese
P.F.C. Thomas Crump was a Military Policeman in the United States Marine Corps, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On December 7, 1941 he went on duty at 0400 hrs. (4 a.m.) and was assigned to the dry dock where the USS Pennsylvania was moored while undergoing repairs. In front of the Pennsylvania were the destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes; all three were being made sea worthy.
As the sun rose over the harbor, burning brightly at 7:55 a.m., Private First Class Crump, armed with a loaded .45 caliber Colt automatic pistol strapped on his side, was watching for saboteurs, because that was where the threat was supposed to come from. When he heard the airplanes overhead, he looked up, but didn’t know they presented a threat until they started dropping bombs.
“They tried to sink the Pennsylvania,” he said, “but missed and hit the Cassin, turning it on its side. Then another bomber flies overhead and drops a big bomb, but misses the Pennsylvania again, and hits the Downes. They burst into flames and they opened the gates and flooded the dock to put out the fires; but it didn’t work, because it was burning oil. I’ve never seen anything like it before, the ocean on fire.”
“Another plane flies overhead and drops bombs on the Pennsylvania, and this one hits it; but with only small bombs that don’t do much damage. But it killed over 40 sailors. I saw them die, falling overboard, some parts of them landing near me. I was hit with shrapnel in the back of my head, and was bleeding some, but couldn’t leave my post; in time of war that’s treason.”
“I shot back at those Jap planes. I was the only one with ammo at that time. Sailors and marines had to break into the ammo storage lockers to get ammo to shoot back. The planes flew away, but another group came back and started dropping bombs again. Women were dropping sailors off at the shuttle boat just past me. I had to convince these ladies to take the wounded to a hospital in their private cars. They didn’t want to because of the blood and gore, but finally they did. There was no other way to transport these guys.”
“When the second wave of planes came, one dropped a big bomb that hit the Pennsylvania; it went through three decks and exploded, sinking the ship. I stayed at my post until the Officer of the Day came by and saw that I was wounded and ordered me to go to the hospital.”
And, so it began, a day that changed the lives of everyone in America forever, and sent 16 million men and women into uniform. Each and every American would be affected by the attack on America by the Imperial Japanese Navy on that day. It changed the fundamental nature of America, and was the last day that the United States would be a second rate nation.
The transformation of America into the most formidable power on earth began on that day. To completely achieve that goal, we would first have to win World War II, produce all the materials of war for every Allied nation fighting it, and when it was won, transform ourselves once again into a nation of peaceful production for the betterment of mankind.
While we did that, we were forced into a Cold War with Russia, then known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. That Cold War led to hot wars that killed more Americans in frigid Korea and steaming hot Vietnam. The difference was that during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the vast majority of Americans lived their lives as if there was no war going on. No rationing, no individual sacrifice, not even a worry of defeat. Only those with men and woman in the combat zones even paid attention to the sacrifices being made by our servicemen and women.
During Vietnam a communist revolutionary dynamic was occurring in America, where the symbol of evil became the American serviceman and woman. They were horribly mistreated. Still, in spite of a loud minority that made life difficult, America prospered, becoming even more powerful and wealthy.
In 1980, after several depressing years of setbacks and communist advances throughout the world, led by feckless leaders in the Democratic Party, we elected a leader who transformed America back to her world leadership role. Ronald Reagan made America great once again, by defeating communism in Europe, and leading us into the most prosperous economic period of all times. His leadership created more disposable wealth for the average American than any other recovery in our history.
Today we honor the memory of those who gave us so much, through their tenacity and strong character, those of the Greatest Generation. They were the ones who fought and won World War II, after having endured the worst economic downfall in our history. Those twin catastrophes built men and women of stoic courage with the will to transform America from its second-class status when the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, to the Greatest Nation on Earth.
That is why we need to take a minute today to remember those who made America great in the first place. It all began on December 7, 1941; at 7:55 a.m. when the first bombs dropped on American soil.