Freedom Fighters: Pearl Harbor

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Dec. 7, 1941, 7:55 a.m., Bud Taylor, an 18-year-old gunner's 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 recalls.

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 probably saved his life.

"Your ship was supposed to be right over here where the Arizona was?" "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." says Taylor.

The Pennsylvania, with 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.

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

"There were so many of them, I had no idea when the Arizona or any of those battleships got hit," recalls Wilkinson. "The one I was on was hit."

John 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 her 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," says Dodd.

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 with will live in infamy," was  to plunge America into World War II.

Bud Taylor, C.A. Wilkinson and John Dodd all survived the Pear 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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