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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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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

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.