Remembering Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dear Editor,

To commemorate Dec. 7th 1941. would like to print the following remembrance of the two Red Willow county men, who were at Pearl Harbor, that horrible day.

First was the late Leonard "Link" Sines of McCook U.S. Marine Corps. He and his unit were on the U.S.S. Tennessee. They were being sent for extensive training to another island. I do not have all of Link's story, but would hope some of his family will print his account of that day and just maybe it will help get a Veterans Memorial in McCook.

I have tried to get a memorial, for our county veterans for years, but have always been denied.

The 2nd man was my late Uncle James Martin Gammill of Bartley, but he was living in Indianola at the time of his enlistment in the U.S. Navy in 1938. He was stationed on the Flag ship, the U.S.S. California, a battleship. We received a telegram Dec. 15, 1941, that he was missing in action from Rear Admiral C.W. Nimitz. Sometime in January of 1942, another telegram came telling us he was alive and well. Our family was in shock again, but with relief.

Many years later, he and I collaborated on a family history book. The following is his personal account of Dec. 7, 1941.

By James: "That Sunday morning, I was already on topside rigging up for church with one of my buddies. We watched as the first plane came over. The first bomb hit an old warehouse on dockside where we were tied up and for one second I thought, why are they bombing that old warehouse, then the next second I knew what was happening.

It was an exploding, burning hell. My ship was a blazing inferno. A lot of us were jumping into the water and the water was already afire with burning, swirling oil. I managed to swim to the shore. I had taken time to tie my shoes around my neck before I jumped (you think of crazy things). I didn't see how I could walk after I got there without them and with some miracle, I got to the shore."

"I helped perhaps five or six days on the beach and docks getting the dead and wounded to hangars that were partially intact at Hialeah Landing and airport.

Those who were able, made a sort of bridge out of scraps to the ships and carried off as many bodies and wounded that they could by hand to hand.

There was no place set up to take care of the ones that were OK; just places for taking care of the wounded and dead. On the fifth or sixth day, there was a receiving station ready, and those that were able, reported there an were taken aboard ships that were able to get out to sea James was put on the U.S.S. Portland, still wearing the same clotheds he had on Dec. 7th ; no shave and covered with oil.

"I was on the Cruiser Portland, in the Coral Sea, when we lost the Lexington and the Midway where it was, and could not save them: the Eastern Solomons when you could see falling planes in every direction; On the Cruiser Denver sneaking into Villa La Valla and Bougainville as close as possible to leave them some of that exploding burning hell.

I recall how terrible it was on the V.E. Marcus Island at Leyte under fire of enemy battleships. "James went on to be in the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa Crus, Vila La Valia, Kula Gulf, Bougainville, Palau Island, Leyte Island and second battle for Leyte Gulf. His last tour of duty was at the U.S. Naval Security Station, D.C. He retired in November 1968.

A new book was published in 2004, "The Sweet Pea" about the cruiser Portland, The first ship out of Pearl after Dec. 7 , It was a wonderful book! Twenty boys were taken aboard from the California that was sunk. Uncle James was among the 20.

I wish Dr. Mike Nielsen and Gene O. Morris the very best in their endeavor to have a County Veterans Memorial erected along with the Senator George Norris Internal Light Display.

Pat Redfern,

President of the Danbury American Legion Auxiliary 276

Bartley, Nebraska

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