Remembering Pearl Harbor: Personal Stories Salvaged from the USS Arizona
Personal Story Saved from the USS Arizona: 72 Years Later
A big challenge in preserving paper is dealing with the consequences of how records were maintained during the time they were actively used. Navy personnel records are difficult ones. Folded in thirds to fit into “jackets” or “bricks,” as the expandable brown folders are called, pages get torn, creased, and scrunched, requiring treatment. In the case of career Seaman 1st class Walter Lewis Hampton, the record is one hefty assemblage of papers spilling out of the small folder. Enlisted in 1925, Hampton served on the USS Henderson, the Arkansas, and the Wyoming, among others, before reporting for his final duty in December 1940 when he joined the USS Arizona.
Hampton’s sizable record contains a very special segment of documents - the Service Record kept on board the Arizona itself. This portion of his record was maintained to keep at close hand information on his enlistment, service, training, and physical description while at sea. It was among the records salvaged by the Navy after the loss of the USS Arizona on Dec. 7th, 1941. As Archives staff identifies records damaged aboard the Arizona, they are brought to the Paper Lab.
Hampton was among the missing after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He left four children and a wife who had initiated divorce proceedings on the grounds of years of abandonment. Although bearing the scars of the attack, his service record still details his personal description. Brown hair, blue eyes, a ruddy face, and tattoos—a kewpie doll, sailor boy, Red Cross nurse, pig, and rooster. This personal information is all perfectly maintained despite the bloom of heat from the center of the booklet, or accretions of dirt along the edges of the pages that still remain from long ago blasts. For these special documents, not only the information they contain but the remnant damage of battle itself preserve an important piece of history.
Remembering Pearl Harbor - USS Nevada escapes
The Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii began at 8:01 AM, Sunday, December 7, 1941. The Nevada, tied up with the U.S. Pacific Fleet, brought down several attacking planes. Although she sustained many hits; she was able to slip her mooring and unsuccessfully attempted to reach the open sea. The logbook entry describes those first harrowing 40 minutes of the attack that resulted in over 100 wounded and 47 killed or missing crewmembers.
The entire entry for December 7th 1941 can be viewed in our catalog: Logbook of the USS Nevada
Photograph of the USS Nevada beached at Hospital Point after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 12/07/1941
The “Big Three” in Teheran, November 30, 1943
From November 28 to December 1, 1943, the “Big Three”—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill—met at Teheran, Iran to discuss the progress of the war and plans for what would become the D-day invasion of June 6, 1944.
Frames excerpted from:
THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA FROM JAPAN! [ETC.], 1943
"U.S. troops go over the side of a Coast Guard manned combat transport to enter the landing barges at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, as the invasion gets under way., 11/1943"
The Bougainville campaign by the Allies to dislodge Japanese forces from the strategically placed island off Papau New Guinea by the Allies began 70 years ago today on November 1, 1943, with an amphibious landing by U.S. Marines and a naval engagement.
A Wave Winds-Up
WAVE [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] activities at Jacksonville, Florida. Violet Falkum, AMM, spins prop of SNJ, training plane., 09/1943
Victor Jorgensen, photographer. From the General Photographic File of the Department of the Navy, 1943 - 1958
"The old (Pacific) swimmin’ hole. Come on in mates; the water’s fine. And there’s plenty of it between the coast of California and the shores of the Philippines. Coast Guardsmen and Marines "beat the heat" by taking a dip from the side of the ship., 1944"
What’s your favorite way to beat the heat over Labor Day weekend?
"In checking with the Special Service Branch I was told there were no openings for Colored Officers in that field, I request to be retired from the services and be placed on reserve as I feel I can’t be of more service to the government doing defense work rather than being on limited duty with an outfit that is already better than 100% over strength in officers."
Request from Jack “Jackie” R. Robinson to the Adjutant General for Retirement from Active Duty, 08/25/1944
Only weeks earlier, Lt. Jack R. Robinson had been court-martialed at Camp Hood, Texas, because he refused to move to the back of the bus after being told to do so by a bus driver and disobeying an order from a superior officer. Robinson was acquitted of all charges and ultimately received an honorable discharge.
Wedding while at war
"Chaplain William T. Green reads the benediction at the marriage ceremony of Pfc. Florence A. Collins, a WAC of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion, to Cpl. William A. Johnson of the 1696th Labor Supervision Co. This is the first Negro marriage to be performed in the European Theater of Operations.” 08/19/1945
Recruiting the first 29
“We hope and have every reason to believe, that the Navajos will play a major role in Marine Corps operations. When the war is over, their story may rank with great sagas of the battlefield.”
August 14, is National Navajo Code Talkers Day, proclaimed in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan for just that reason. The Code Talker story is an incredible war saga. The code developed by these men was never broken by the Japanese, and it was said, at the time, that without them, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.
Read the full story at http://www.archives.gov/locations/calendar/13-august.pdf
Records about the Navajo Code Talkers can be found throughout the National Archives: in the U.S. Marine Corps records in College Park, in the Military Personnel Records in St. Louis, and in the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Riverside and Washington, D.C. This topic is one of many which allow researchers to explore the National Archives!