Freedom Fighters: Pearl Harbor anniversary - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Pearl Harbor anniversary

(KLTV) -

To most school children, December 7, 1941 is only a date in a history book, but to millions of Americans, it's the date that changed them and our nation forever.

December 7, 1941, 7:55 a.m., Bud Taylor, an 18-year-old Gunners Mate aboard the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, had just finished breakfast when all hell broke loose.

"It didn't take but just a minute. First wave that come over, we knew what was happening." Taylor said.

What was happening was a massive, surprise attack by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes on the American fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Although the Pennsylvania sustained two bomb hits, Taylor didn't know until after the attack that a case of mistaken identity had probably saved his life.

"We was the flagship. We weren't where we was supposed to be. We was in dry dock and we were supposed to be in 10/10 dock," said Taylor.

The Pennsylvania, with an admiral aboard, was a primary target of the attack. But its sister ship, the Arizona, was in its dock, and the ships looked so much alike, the Arizona received the brunt of the attack.

Eight bombs and one torpedo hit the Arizona. But it was the explosion of the ship's magazine that dealt its death blow, engulfing it in flames, half sinking it and taking most of its crew with it.

"I looked up real quick and a plane was going over. I saw what it was, so I went toward my battle station and I was about halfway there before the alarm went off to man your guns," Taylor recalled.

C.A. Wilkinson was aboard the Tangier, the first shop to fire back at the enemy. Of the 29 Japanese planes destroyed in the attack, three of them were hit by Tangier gunners.

"There were so many of them, I had no idea when the Arizona or any of those battleships got hit," Wilkinson said.

"The one I was on was hit," said John Dodd.

Dodd was aboard the U.S.S. Maryland when two bombs hit the ship. While the crew of the Maryland bravely fought off attacking Japanese planes, ships around were sinking, trapping many of its sailors below deck.

In his nightmares, Dodd can still hear the tapping of the trapped sailors.

"They were hitting, tapping the ship for 44 days," he said.

Eighteen-year-old Sailor Wiley Black was just finishing the midnight watch on the U.S.S. Tennessee and raising the ship's flag when the attack began.

"I was just winding that around that flag pole and turned around to face this Japanese bomber who was coming around the front of the ship with his machine gun," Black recalled. "And he mowed down those men on the high field gun, which is an anti-aircraft gun."

The Japanese gunner then turned his gun around and aimed at Black.

"We ducked down and held our heads as close to the... behind that shield as we could. When we did, the bullets just spattered on the other side," said Black.

The Tennessee, wedged in between the Arizona and sunken West Virginia, was showered by debris when the Arizona's magazine exploded, engulfing it in flames from the Arizona's burning fuel oil.

The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that December morning was devastating, with 3,435 casualties, loss or severe damage to 188 aircraft, eight battleships, three light cruisers and four other vessels.

The attack, proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as 'A date which will live in infamy,' was to plunge America into World War Two.

Bud Taylor, C.A. Wilkinson, John Dodd and Wiley Black all survived the Pearl Harbor attack and went on to fight for their country, with the battle cry: "Remember Pearl Harbor" forever in their memories.

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