December 7, 2011

My Grandfather, a Pearl Harbor Survivor

I called my mother on her birthday last week to wish her well.  We talked about the normal things we talk about and about the upcoming holidays.  I'm not sure what brought the subject up, but she mentioned some things about her father that I wasn't aware of.

Now I realize that sometimes children embellish the achievements of their parents, and she admitted that some of the things she mentioned he didn't like to talk about.  For that reason alone, I'll refrain from mentioning them until I get some sort of confirmation.

For confirmation I did what most of us would do.....I started looking online.  A quick once-over didn't find me what I was looking for, partially because there is a Senator with Navy experience that shares my Grandfather's name.  I did find this gem though from 2001.

Pearl Harbor Survivor in 5C!

Story by Kent Coleman
Fifth Grade Teacher 

  September 11, 2001, is a day that Americans will forever remember. Sixty years ago another day of infamy occurred that will always be remembered, the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  On Sunday at 7:55 a.m. a young petty officer, Tom Butler, was taking a morning nap on the deck of the USS Tennessee when he was awaken by the sound of explosions. At first he thought that one of our planes had crashed, until he looked about 50 feet away and saw a Japanese plane zooming by. Inside the cockpit he could see the smiling face of a Japanese pilot.
  Seeing the danger of the strafing and bombs from the Japanese planes, Tom quickly went inside the battleship with two other men and closed the 300 pound hatch behind him. There they stayed for the next four hours. During that time they could hear and feel the explosions from the torpedoes and bombs that surrounded their ship at Pearl Harbor.
  When the attack was finally over Tom and the other two men were shocked to see the carnage before them, including the capsized battleship, USS Oklahoma, and the sinking battleship,USS Arizona, ablaze in fire.
  This fascinating story was told by Mr. Butler himself to fifth graders in Mr. Coleman's class. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of this historical event, students read articles from survivors of the attack, watched videos, listened to radio broadcasts, and looked at maps of Pearl Harbor.
  On December 7, 2001, at 9:15am, as Mr. Butler entered the classroom all twenty-four students honored him with a salute. In the background one could hear the Naval song, Anchor's Aweigh, and see a large patriotic banner which read "Remember Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941."
  Mr. Butler told his story, showed slides of the attack, displayed his uniform and numerous medals, and fielded questions from the excited students. Each student also prepared pictures to commemorate this event which Mr. Butler was gracious enough to autograph as a keepsake. Students then got their pictures taken with him.
  Many students reflected that it was "a great honor to meet someone who fought for our country". One student wrote,
". . . to hear a story like that was amazing!"

My Grandfather never talked about his time in the Navy, and definitely not about Pearl Harbor.  In one of the last times I saw my Grandfather he told me about how he met my Grandmother.  I know he was in the service at the time and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of his service. Hopefully I'll learn more as I go along.

I just find it pretty cool that not only am I able to find this, but that is is from the school I went to in 3rd and 4th grade!  That just makes it more special to me.  This information is used with permission.

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