Book Review: Remember Pearl

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Part 2: It's in the Details

The real success of this book is in the details. We read, for example, the stories of American gunners and pilots and sailors who swam to safety after watching their friends die. We read of pilots who managed to get their planes off the ground and shoot down some of the attacking Japanese planes. The book gives us stories of Japanese sailors and pilots, American sailors and pilots, American nurses, and even African-American sailors.

One of the more fascinating details of the Pearl Harbor story is the response by African-American Doris Miller. Trained as a cook and having no real experience firing guns, Miller nonetheless grabbed hold of an artillery gun and started firing at incoming Japanese planes, downing at least one. For his bravery, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross.

Miller's is a well-known story. Clark Simmons's is not. Simmons was a servant, just like Miller. He served aboard the USS Utah, one of three ships totally damaged in the attack. Simmons survived the attack, too, getting shot in the process. He managed to swim to shore and get first aid. He survived the attack, and his quote is one of the best in the book: "Every year, December 7 feels like my birthday. I feel like I was reborn on that day, because it was such a miracle I wasn't killed."

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Graphics courtesy of National Geographic

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David White