He would tell us the story of how he was walking across Wheeler Field on the way to work as the ground began to kick up. As he was walking, Japanese aircraft began to strafe the field. He did not know immediately what was happening. As he rushed to his duty station, he and his fellow servicemen realized they were under attack.
As a kid, I remember looking through all of his World War Two photos, his scrapbooks, his newspaper clippings. I was proud of his service in the Army Air Corps and later the US Air Force. Because he was not in the Infantry or a Pilot, or because he was not on board one of the doomed ships in Pearl Harbor–I somehow never imagined the scope of what he endured until recently.
He always spoke fondly of Hawaii and the days he was stationed there. He even returned to the Islands back in the 1970s to visit his old haunts. My dad was a quiet man. He always told the stories; but I guess now, that he never told us all the stories. I recently discovered online some US Army archival photos of my Dad’s station under attack. Bombings and fire lasted over three hours. He never forgot and always told those stories, so we would never forget.
Houston F. James was a Dallas, Texas native and survivor of Pearl Harbor. He was photographed in 2004 giving an emotional hug to a Marine during a Veteran’s Day ceremony. The look in their eyes is a shared camaraderie and connection that I suppose only survivors of that type would share. Looking back, I can see that same look when Dad would speak of his “buddies” back in Hawaii.
Houston left a plaque at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii with words penned by himself. The words are appropriate for today.
Destiny-Has allowed you to observe the horrors of war.
Destiny-Has granted you the privilege of a continued journey through life.
Destiny-Will ask you to remember and you will remember each time you hear the word survivor. You’ll remember and be thankful.
I’m thankful that my Dad was a survivor of December 7th, 1941. Without his survival, I could not write these words; I would not be here today; I would not know those stories. I’m here, so I will Never Forget.
“Never Forget” poster by Allen Sandburg, 1942
Houston James Photo ©Dallas Morning News
Destiny Plaque photo from Pearl Harbor Survivors Online ©2011