Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii — a day that still lives in infamy.
The bombing marked the United States’ entry into World War II, leading many men across the world into military service.
Among them were several Arkansas City natives, such as William Farrar.
Farrar honored for service
William H. Farrar served in the U.S. Navy from July 27, 1940, until retiring as a lieutenant commander on Sept. 1, 1962.
Farrar, the father of local historian Foss Farrar, was written about in “Blue Seas, Red Stars: Soviet Military Medals to U.S. Sea Service Recipients in World War II,” by David A. Schwin (Schiffer Publishing 2015).
William Farrar received the Order of the Red Star from the Soviet Union. He also had the opportunity to meet the king and queen of England, while stationed in Scotland.
More information regarding Farrar’s wartime service can be found in “Blue Seas, Red Stars.”
McGee recalls family stories
Billy Lee Stribling was one of the crew members aboard the USS Benjamin Franklin when it was hit by Japanese fire in March 1945.
He was Jeni McGee’s great-uncle — a man she never was able to meet, but one she heard of many times as her grandfather told the story of that day in March.
The Franklin had maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than any other U.S. aircraft carrier at the time.
But on March 19, when it was hit twice by dive bombers, a series of events was set into motion that caused great separation within the crew.
One bomb struck the flight deck of the carrier, causing fires and knocking out the information center. The other bomb landed amid planes loaded for warfare.
Accounts from that day were that the deck was covered in smoke and fire. The attack continued with munitions that caused further fires.
To make matters worse, a 3-inch fuel line ruptured and there was no water pressure to combat the fires, which were made much worse by the leak.
Munitions kept on the carrier exploded, causing more mayhem. Some of the crew members had to jump from the ship to avoid being burned to death.
Despite there being another ship nearby, the Franklin was left immobile, submitting to the direction of the current.
“Billy was trapped below deck, where he served as a storekeeper,” McGee said. “My grandfather told me he was unable to get out or to help those around him (who) had perished in the attack.”
Other men left the ship and were threatened with court-martials — which never were processed. “It seemed like the confusion of the attack created a communication breakdown,” McGee said. “Men had conflicting reports about what was actually supposed to have happened.”
Stribling only was able to leave the ship after it was docked. “He, along with the other men who stayed aboard, was subjected to horrors that we cannot imagine,” McGee said. “Bodies of the men they served with were everywhere, some burned. Some had died without oxygen below deck.”
The captain of the ship gave out cards with the words “Big Ben 704 Club” to the men who stayed on the ship throughout the entire ordeal.
This incident has been credited as having the highest casualty numbers since the USS Arizona was bombed in Pearl Harbor.
The Franklin casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded.
“Billy had his share of tragedy, but my mother always said that he was her favorite uncle,” McGee said. “The tattoo he had on his forearm was a mermaid or a hula dancer, I think. Mom said he used to make her dance.”