Pearl Harbor and the Long Weekend

Sometimes history can seem too distant to really understand its implications on the way we live today. Other times, like in the case of Pearl Harbor, we've heard so much about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the statistics of lost ships and aircraft, that we forget that there were ordinary men who led pretty ordinary lives until that day.

This is a fictionalized account of one such man and how his life changed that day.

(A few years ago we traveled to Hawaii and spent a day at Pearl Harbor. It is a day our family will never forget.)

Pearl Harbor and the Long Weekend | a study for homeschoolers

Settling In

The week had been an amazing one. At just twenty years old and fresh out Radioman A School in San Diego, California he'd reported to his first assignment as a Radioman aboard the USS Arizona.

The first week had been spent getting acquainted with his new home-away-from-home in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He'd felt a sense of pride the first time he walked down Battleship Row and found his battleship moored first in the line, at the south end of Ford Island. She was a beauty.

The first thing anyone would notice about the USS Arizona was her gun turrets. She had four of them, each with 14-inch guns. They were striking against the clear blue sky. At 608 feet long, she'd been commissioned October of 1916 and had never seen battle. She was special, though, and carried 1,510 crew, including the Navy Band. At the end of World War 1, she'd been tasked with carrying then-President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Accords. She was known as the "Pride of the Pacific Fleet."

The letters he wrote back home to his parents were full of facts. The school he was attending, the place he would be stationed, the people he met. He was proud to be serving his country. He'd grown up listening to his dad tell stories of his role in World War 1 as an Infantryman and he was glad to be serving in a time of peace. His parents were so proud.


He'd reported to duty earlier in the week, before the Arizona had left for a week at sea. He had spent the time getting settled into his new role as a Radioman. A Radioman's primary responsibility was sending receiving radio messages to the fleet command. This was done through the access of various frequencies. Maintaining the radio equipment was also an essential part of the job.

He awoke to reveille from the boatswain early Friday morning, about 5:30 a.m.  He took care of his bed and bedding then headed to the Chow Hall. After eating, he reported to his superior for the day's duties. He'd worked until about 5 p.m. and then and having completed his duty, he looked forward to a weekend ashore.


First day back and he had duty. Later, he went to a movie with some of the crew then returned to the ship. He ate dinner onboard and enjoyed a couple of hours of board games with his crewmates. He wrote a letter home to be mailed on Monday, turned out the light, and exhausted, called it a night. He was feeling a little homesick, but it had been a good day. He was going to like being stationed in Pearl Harbor.


Sunday he'd planned waking up early, ready to spend the day at Waikiki Beach with newly made friends. He was looking forward to a day of liberty with friends, food, bonfires, and a fresh air. As he dressed for liberty that morning, he had helped set up the chairs for church aboard the Arizona. Within two hours of reveille, everything would change.

It was early, December 7, 1941, when a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor sunk the USS Arizona. She sank within 14 minutes. It would be the greatest loss of life ever on a US warship.

The radioman in our story would be among the fallen.

On Other Ships

Though each sailor on each ship would normally have specific roles and job classifications, during the attack on Pearl Harbor each man would take to whatever position was necessary in order to try to survive. A radioman like the young man in the story would just as likely fill the role of gunner's mate or medic, wherever they were most urgently needed.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 other battleships were sunk or damaged, along with 13 other naval vessels and over 300 airplanes. 2400  Americans were killed and another 1000 were injured.

So, the next time you hear the statistics of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and bring to mind the lives lost, stop and try to imagine the actual person behind the life lost.

Listen to stories told by survivors. Honor their memory by remembering they were regular people with a lifetime in front of them, cut short that day by the greatest attack to ever occur on American soil.

Pearl Harbor and the Long Weekend

How to Use This Story in Your Homeschool

  • Use it as a conversation starter at your dinner table.
  • Create an age-appropriate book list for the topic.
  • Generate a vocabulary and spelling list from unfamiliar words and phrases in the story.
  • Watch a movie based on the topic, such as Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Use Notebooking Pages to create a more expansive study of World War Two.


Secret Heroes of World War One

Something You Might Be Surprised to Learn About World War 1

Let’s be honest with one another. It was a world-wide war. Volumes could be written (and have been) about the important things we need to know about World War 1.

We could dig in and look at the who, what, when, where, and even why. But my goal here today is to intrigue you!

I want to create a leaping off point. One that entices you to discover more on your own and leaves your students asking for more.

(Do you recall how we used The Story of the World for our history spine? Well, this is what I'm talking about. Sometimes my children would want to learn MORE based on what we had discovered in our history studies.)

A Good Yarn

Not one to give in to a boring list, we are going to use the power of a good story. This is how we learn best. We’re going to start at the beginning.  So here is how it goes…


Horses, Providentially Speaking

Horses are special creatures. The history of the horse is a history of God’s Providence. Horses have contributed greatly to the works of man throughout history. Where would we be without the strength of the horse?

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Today we tend to think of the Kentucky Derby when we think of horses. We might even see them as a very expensive pet. But there’s more to the story of horses than that.

God certainly used horses to move man across His created world.

Think of the Pony Express, the westward movement of people across our nation, and how the Native American used and depended on the horse.

Farming, covered wagons, the delivery of goods, the movement of cattle—all dependent upon the noble horse.

They were often like family to the individuals who owned them. This makes “the rest of the story” a somewhat sad tale.


Donkeys, Horses, and Mules

When you think of a world war, you may envision tanks.

But, did you know that at the beginning of World War 1 all of the major players started with a cavalry?

By and large, donkeys, horses, and mules were being taken to carry ammunition and supplies to the Front. The animals were uniquely designed to handle the muddy conditions and difficult terrain.

As the war progressed, horses continued to be used by the Russian army. This was mainly due to their lack of technology. But they did have horses.

If you’ve spent time around horses, you already know that they are creatures that require special care. Many died in the war due to poor conditions and terrible weather.

Though horses on the warfront improved morale (a rider loves his mount), the use of horses in the war came at a great cost. One quarter of all equine deaths during the war years were related to battle casualties. It is said that by the end of WW1, Britain had lost one horse for every two men.


Farmers During World War I

But as the different nations acquired these animals from the farmers, there was little thought given to the their outcome. Nor did they think about the outcome for the farmers and people who relied upon them to produce crops.

Unfortunately, the only people guaranteed to return home with horses were the officers. And these were the mounts which they personally owned. When your farm horse was acquired, it was likely the last you would ever see of him.

At a time when horse powered farms exist, the ability to manage the farm was greatly impacted.

Farms still needed to produce food for the nations they served. Can you imagine what the farmer felt when he saw his best horses and work ponies carted off to the Front?


The Livestock Stars of the Story

As sad and disheartening as it is, high numbers of horses died. What else would we expect? How could we expect the animals to overcome machinery?

War technology was advanced-- machine guns, barbed wire, and concrete reinforced trenches. Not to mention the toll that tanks and airplanes had on cavalry.

It’s not long before horses were no longer used on the Western Front and were primarily used on the Eastern Front. Russia’s inability to keep up with technology made them heavily reliant on horses for support.

Naturally, not every horse fell to its death.

Those that came back from the Front were divided into two different classes: 1. the healthiest and youngest of were sold back to the farmers ; 2. the remaining, least healthy and strong in the next class down, were sold at a lesser price.

Some donkeys, horses, and mules were older and weaker. As difficult as this may be to understand, they went to the knacker's yard for meat to feed the population.

It may be surprising, but it was seen as a necessity because of the severe food shortage that hit Europe at the end of the war.


Ode to the Horse

Each nation felt the loss of so many of these special creatures. It wasn’t long before memorials, books, poetry, and even movies showed up to honor them. Memorials such as: Animals in War Memorial, St. Jude’s Church-Hampstead, and the Australian Light Horse.

The special relationship between man and horse is seen far beyond the contributions the horse has made to history.

We can tell the tales from one generation to the next, creating place markers by way of memorials, but literature is the handmaid to history.

And those who tell stories best have left us wonderful resources to consult.


Horses in World War I - the Literature

While on the Front, many soldiers actually wrote poetry about their horses. Have you ever read The War Horse or The Australian Memorial verse?  

And you might be familiar with the movie War Horse, but did you know that before it was a movie, it was a book? War Horse is a children’s novel by author Michael Morpurgo. It tells the war story of a horse named Joey during WW1.


The Rest of the Story

Like all of history and the tales that go with it, there are more stories. The story of the horse and the impact it made on history is just the beginning.

You can continue to read about World War 1 through the lens of stories with these book suggestions. Let me know which ones you find yourself calling a “favorite”.

Books for Youngers

  • Lord of the Nutcracker

  • Truce

  • After the Dancing Days

  • Archie’s War

  • Private Peaceful

  • War Game

  • In Flanders Field

  • Five Children on the Western Front


Books for Middles  

  • The War to End All Wars

  • Remembrance

  • War Horse

  • Where Poppies Grow


Books for Olders

  • Rilla of Ingleside

  • The Guns of August: The Outbreak of WW1