Many local residents were not aware of the number of men from Southwest Colorado who were stationed or living at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when it was attacked.
The attack was a surprise strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the U.S. Navy in Hawaii, and led to the United States’ entry into World War II. Japan referred to it as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI.
The attack was designed to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with its warfighting in Southeast Asia. The seven-hour strike included attacks on U.S. forces in Philippines, Guam and Wake Island, and on British forces Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong.
It began at 7:48 a.m. Hawaii time (10:48 a.m. Mountain time). Bomber, fighter and torpedo attacks launched from six aircraft carriers damaged all eight U.S. battleships and sank four. Japan also sank or damaged three cruisers and destroyers and destroyed 128 aircraft.
The attacks killed 2,008 sailors and wounded 710 others; killed 218 soldiers and airmen and wounded 364; killed 109 Marines and wounded 69; and killed 68 civilians and wounded 35.
All three of the Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers – Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga – were absent from Pearl Harbor.
Fifty-five Japanese airmen and nine submariners were killed in the attack, and one was captured.
From the names shown, you will also recognize other familiar names of men who came to live in our area.
USS Tennessee: Bill Hart, a Marine.USS New Orleans: Henry “Buster” White.USS San Francisco: C.K. “Chuck” Herndon.USS Curtis: Seaplane Tender Gaylord Lyman.USS California: Vernon Irvin.USS Medusa: Jim Hinton.USS Oklahoma: Wesley Potts and J. Pat Maylott.USS Nevada: Richard “Dick” Winbourn.Hickam Field: Sam Merlo, Tom and Leon Lancaster.Dry docks at Oahu: Perry Conder.Schofield Barracks: Nevil Beck.Pearl Harbor Navy Yard: Wenzel Beagles, a Marine, stationed in military police in vehicle traffic.Construction workers in Honolulu: Probably on dry docks: Howard and Harvey McClellan.Living in Honolulu: Jim Davenport, father in Navy.The first wave of about 50 Japanese aircraft approached over Opana Point and arrived over their targets shortly before 7:55 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. After a lull, the second wave of attacking planes hit Pearl Harbor about 8:30 a.m. The USS Arizona was hit by a 1,780-pound bomb, and in less than 9 minutes sank with over 1,100 of her crew. Manila, Philippines, also was bombed on Sunday. The main Japanese fleet was about 175 miles northwest.
Any sailor who served on the USS Arizona was able to request that his ashes be interred in the Arizona with his comrades. The Navy sent divers down to place the ashes in the ship if this request was made.
The USS Oklahoma was hit by several torpedoes and rolled completely over, trapping many men inside. The USS California and the West Virginia sank at their moorings. The USS Utah capsized with more than 50 crew. The USS Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all suffered significant damage.
The battleship Nevada got underway and attempted to run out to sea, but she took several hits and was forced to beach. The Shaw exploded during the height of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The destroyers Cassin and Downes were in dry dock and were total losses. Other Navy ships suffered serious damage.
Operations buildings were strafed by bullets at Hickam Field.
Other military installations at Pearl Harbor were Schofield Barracks, Hickam Field Army Air Base, Bellows Field Air Force Base, Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, Wheeler Air Force Base, Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
On Dec. 8, the U.S. declared war on Japan, and after Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. on Dec. 11, the U.S. declared war on them.
After the war, because Japan attacked without warning or a declaration, the action was judged in the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.
Montezuma County Memorial BoardThe Memorial Board was erected on Cortez’s Main Street to honor those from Montezuma County who served during World War II. According to the Montezuma County Historical Society, names were added on the board when possible, and the board had about 1,100 names listed. This board was first located in the area between the movie theater and Once Upon a Sandwich, then moved to the existing parking lot next to the courthouse on Main Street. In later years, it was dismantled and disappeared.
Montezuma and Dolores counties memorialOn Aug. 8, 1947, the The Dolores Star reported that copy was being prepared for a bronze memorial plaque at Memorial Hospital in Cortez. The plaque, made from funds raised by the Cortez Lions Club Ladies, was designed to bear names of every man from Montezuma and Dolores counties who died in the line of duty. The plaque was located in the lobby of the Southwest Memorial Hospital and listed 39 men who lost their lives.
Following is the list of names as they would appear:
Montezuma CountyArmstrong, Delbert C.Brixey, Lloyd A. Jr.Butler, William H.Carver, Dean L.Devine, Carl A.Fitzgerald, BenFrancisco, Raymond J.Gray, F. E.Hackett, Ronald A.Halls, John D.Hayes, Dave O.Hill, RoscoeHucke, Lewis C.Jewell, Walter M.Leavell, Reamor Jr.McDaniels, WilliamMcGill, DonaldMcGreagor, John R.Morrison, O’Neal P.Neal, DonaldPratt, AllanRippetoe, JackRoberts, Herbert M.Rose, BersonSimmons, Robert J.Slavens, RoyStarr, JamesStevens, VirgilStoddard, SilasSwift, DonaldToadvine, Billy M.Ward, Frank C.Weaver, Clyde T.White, Glen E.Williford, Robert R.Winbourn, Richard S.Dolores CountyBartlett, ClarenceDick McCabeYoung, TroyNotesThe articles can be found in the Montezuma County Historical Books titled “Great Sage Plain to Timberline – Our Pioneer Ancestors” in Volumes 3 and 4. The names on the Memorial Board are listed in Vol. 4.
Rick Torres, veterans service officer in Cortez, may be contacted if your veteran does not have a military marker or bronze medallion. If you have a stone, please also contact Torres to see if the bronze medallion could be used. Torres may be contacted at 970-564-2779.
June Head, Montezuma County historian, may be contacted at 970-565-3880.