The Heroes of Pearl Harbor

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On December 7, 1941, the Japanese began bombing Pearl Harbor. At the end of the second wave of bombing, the United States had “five sunk battleships and eight damaged. Three destroyers, three light cruisers, three smaller boats, and 188 aircraft were destroyed. The casualty count was 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians and 1,178 people were wounded” (The History Place, 1997). I believe these numbers would have been higher if it weren’t for heroes like Samuel Fuqua, Peter Tomich, Doris Miller, Edwin Hill, and Phil Rasmussen.

On December 7, 1941, ieutenant Commander Samuel Fuqua was on board the USS Arizona eating his breakfast when the air raid sirens went off. He ran to the deck of the boat and there he was knocked by a bomb that exploded near him. After he regained consciousness he took control and started putting out fires on the ship. While fighting the fires from the first bomb another bomb went off. This time it hit the ammunition magazine. “More than 1,000 men were killed” (Andrews, 2015). This left Fuqua as the oldest surviving officer aboard the ship. At this time he ordered an evacuation of the ship. He and two fellow officers were the last to leave the ship. Once in the water, the three men took over a passing boat. The began grabbing surviving men that were in the water. Fuqua was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics at Pearl Harbor.

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At the same time the USS Arizona was hit, the USS Utah was struck by two torpedo strikes. Water began to flood the hull of the ship. Chief Watertender Peter Tomich was inside the ship’s boiler room. He ordered his crew to evacuate the ship. Then by himself, he secured the boiler room. This stopped a likely explosion from happening. “The ship sank with Tomich and 57 other men still on board” (Andrews, 2015). He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving many lives that day.

Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller the cook and laundry attendant and Navy boxing champion was stationed aboard the USS West Virginia when it was hit by bombs and torpedoes. Dorie ran to man his battle station. When he got to his station it had been destroyed so he started carrying injured sailors to safety. He also helped carry the ship’s Captain to a safe area after he had been injured. After that, Miller started helping the machine gunners by handing them ammunition. Although Miller had no weapon training, he still began using one of the machine guns on the ship. He helped to shot Japanese fighters that were coming onto the ship. Later he recalled “It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine...I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us” ( April 8, 2019). He continued shooting until he was ordered to abandon ship. For his actions on this day he was presented the Navy Cross. It was the first time a Navy Cross had been given to an African American. In 1943, Miller was later killed along with 645 other crewmen when the escort carrier he was stationed one was torpedoed.

When Wheeler Field was bombed that morning Second Lieutenant Phil Rasmussen was still sleeping. Still, in his pajamas, he ran to the airstrip and was able to find a P-36 fighter plane that hadn’t been hit. He and three other pilots took on 11 Japanese airplanes. “Out of those 11 planes, he was able to shoot down one and damaged another one before his plane was hit with 500 bullets. He was then able to dodge another plane that tried to hit him” (, April 14, 2019). He was able to land his damaged even though it didn’t have brakes, a rudder or a tail wheel. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery and went on to retire for the Air Force in 1965.

Chief Boatswain Edwin Hill was stationed on the USS Nevada. On that day the ship was was lined up with other battleships at Ford Island on what was called ‘Battleship Row’ (, April 14, 2019). The ships were trapped to where they were moored. Hill and a few others went ashore to cut the moorings all while being shot at by the Japanese. Hill then jumped into the water and swam back to his ship so help fight off the attack. He instructed the less experienced sailors to take cover. During the second wave of bombing the USS Nevada was hit by a bomb as Hill was trying to drop the ship’s anchor. He was killed but with his actions, the ship was able to be grounded and prevented from sinking and blocking the harbor’s entrance. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took the United States by surprise on the morning of December 7, 1941. After the two waves of bombing, the damage had been done. This damage and devastation could have been much worse if it weren't for the heroics of our military. These heroes put their lives on the line to protect their fellow military personnel and their country and save many lives and damage to the military fleets and planes.

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The Heroes of Pearl Harbor. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
“The Heroes of Pearl Harbor.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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