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A Personal Face to the Date Which Will Live in Infamy: Dec. 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, my beautiful, kind, and brave grandfather was in Pearl Harbor, far from his Indiana country upbringing.

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My handsome grandfather hamming it up in Pearl Harbor (on the left)

Before that infamous day though, the men — and their gals — enjoyed some downtime in tropical Oahu.

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Hubba hubba: My grandmother, or the little island girl

My granddaddy was a Lieutenant aboard the USS Montgomery, a destroyer located near the entrance to Pearl Harbor when the bombers attacked. The ship wasn’t fully crewed, but it managed to depart to sea immediately, due to its location. The Montgomery eventually received four battle stars for World War II service.

Later in WWII, my grandfather took part in the Pacific Theater — ironically, in the area where I grew up, the Kwajalein Atoll — contending with the high seas of the South Pacific and kamikaze pilots.


USS Montgomery, my granddaddy’s first post — caught at Pearl Harbor

Photo Courtesy of NavSource Naval History

He eventually became Commander of the USS Shea, another destroyer. During periods of the war, the Shea was in constant engagements with Japanese aircraft. At one point, all communications were lost. To imagine being on a listing ship, with so many dead and dying fellow men, your communications completely lost, out in the vast empty waters of the South Pacific… This is what I think of when I meet veterans today.

In 1954, the Shea took part in the atomic tests conducted at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands (my stomping grounds). Regardless of these feats, my grandfather remained the most gentle soul till his death at an excruciatingly young age — I’m convinced due to the close exposure of radiation. To this day, 32 years after his passing, he remains my guiding force. James Walter Reed led his crew with an inherent gentleness and strength — a combination so very rare to the human species.

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The USS Shea, my granddaddy’s Commander post

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Commander Granddaddy visits the officers of the USS Shea in 1953

Both he and my grandmother are now laid to rest at the breathtaking Arlington National Cemetery. May this day continue to live in infamy, and never be forgotten — may the heroism of so many always be remembered. And may these days of remembrance serve to teach us lessons of loss — and futures of peace.

And finally…. Early happy birthday to you (tomorrow, the eighth), granddaddy.

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Grandmommy and Granddaddy in San Francisco, during a lucky break: LOVE.

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pam #

    What a touching post and amazing man. Thank you for sharing.

    December 7, 2012
    • He really was…continues to be…a most beautiful and amazing man. Thanks so much for saying so. ♥

      December 7, 2012
  2. This is great!! My grandfather was commander of the Port of New York, among other things in WWII, but at present I cannot recall where both of my grandfathers were stationed exactly on Dec 7th. My Dad’s dad was a military chaplain at that time. Our duty in Hawaii came much later. I was in the first grade when we were all let out of class to watch the American Flag go up when Hawaii became a state. And that was on Oahu too.

    Thank you much for sharing this part of your history! And for honoring those who sacrificed so much that day!! May we learn from our past!!

    December 7, 2012
    • You’re EXACTLY right. May these days of remembrance serve to teach us lessons of loss — and futures of peace.

      We have so much in common, you and I, with our upbringings and families! How wonderful. My mother even returned to Oahu as a child, going to Punahou for primary school. And of course, I spent MY upbringing among the Hawaiian Islands much later… 🙂

      You should see if you could find some photos! Yayayay!

      December 7, 2012
      • LOL…do I have photos!! I recently had to buy a nice scanner because I am the appointed family archivist! AKA, Mom told Dad to clean out. Daughters of Generals are pretty bossy don’t cha know!! That meant Judy is now housing the memories. After the holidays I will be intensely trying to scan pictures from both sides of the family…I both dread and look forward to the project. I am a horrible memory lane tripper and could get lost in time for an indeterminate period. And, the military never did have a shortage of photographers far as I can see.

        Two of my strongest Hawaii memories besides becoming a state are being at Mauna Loa after an eruption and seeing the steam coming from vents and feeling the heat through my shoes…it was safe by then…and being evacuated to a high cliff area waiting for a tsunami thought to be headed our way.

        My school was Capulani school and I was the only haole kid.

        Better stop rambling..this could last awhile.

        December 7, 2012
  3. That’s beautiful and terrifying all at once. Thank you for sharing. I’d thank him if I could!

    December 7, 2012
    • It really is… VERY well put. No worries, I think he hears your thanks — you’re so very kind. 🙂

      December 7, 2012
  4. Very emotional post. Many thanks to your family for their service and bless all those that currently serve.

    December 7, 2012
  5. Thank you for sharing this bit of history. When I was in the Navy (thankfully, during non-combat times), one of my greatest fears was finding myself on a sinking ship. Thankfully, I never did. Even the drills scared the heck out of me.

    December 7, 2012
    • You’re so welcome!

      Wow, a navy gal! Where were you located? As a navy daughter my mother was all over the place… Hawaii, Norfolk, Arlington…

      December 7, 2012
  6. WOW What a Great Legacy – thank you for sharing this great man and his service to this country! Have a Great One:)

    December 7, 2012
    • THANKS so much for your kind words!! I’m more than happy to share… 🙂

      December 7, 2012
  7. A fine tribute to your grandfather and wonderful photos!

    December 7, 2012
    • Thanks so very much! He continues to serve as daily inspiration for me… Both he and my grandmother. 🙂

      December 7, 2012
  8. Amazing heritage. Thanks for sharing.

    December 8, 2012
    • Thanks so very much — he was a wonderful, kind man that continues to inspire me… every day.

      December 9, 2012
  9. What a lovely tribute to your grandfather. (He looks a little like Elvis Presley in that last photo – handsome, indeed). Nice historic photos, too.

    December 8, 2012
    • He WAS handsome, wasn’t he? I think my brother has much of the same look… In many photos, they look strikingly similar. It’s uncanny. Thanks so much — I’m thrilled to have these images…

      December 9, 2012
  10. To have in your possession such historic photos…..and for those photos to possess such personal value? I can’t even fathom how important these are to you.
    I love this tribute to your grandfather; so beautiful.

    December 8, 2012
    • I was able to wrangle them from my aunt, thankfully…. And you’re right. I was SO happy, over-the-moon thrilled to learn the entire history (I only knew bits and pieces), and to put them together with the images. I love them so much, to this day — and they continue to be hugely inspiring.

      December 9, 2012
  11. Such an illustrious naval career your grandfather had. He sounds like he was strong and noble man. A true “Man’s Man”, one that they broke the mold after he was born. This history and heritage is so incredible, and you must be so proud to have him as your grandfather. Thank you so much for sharing this story, and for him for his service to our country.

    December 8, 2012
    • Thanks so much for those wonderfully sensitive words… You’re exactly right. He stood up for what was honorable, even in the most difficult situations. And I do mean difficult. He continues to inspire me, to this day. There aren’t many like him — I so wish there were more, or that he had more years on this planet.

      December 9, 2012
  12. I absolutely love your pictures of the Florida everglades… but this post was so personal, so raw… I read it twice! 🙂

    December 8, 2012
    • You’re so kind… THANK you! These people continue to mean an incredible amount to me, and it’s long overdue.

      December 9, 2012
  13. Big thanks for the flashback… I grew up with a father and mother both in the Navy. My father was in WWII, KOREAN WAR, and the beginning of Vietnam. I lived most of my life in between and Army base and an Air force base with most of us born over seas.

    December 9, 2012
    • I’m so glad you appreciated… And obviously empathized! I was raised overseas (as was my mother), both for military upbringings. Whereabouts for you?

      December 9, 2012
      • I was born in Bremerhaven, Germany.

        December 11, 2012
  14. What a moving tribute.

    December 9, 2012
    • Thanks very much…. So much more is deserved. They both continue to serve as tremendous inspirations, to this day.

      December 10, 2012
  15. You and your grandfather, really, really touched my heart tonight … When i sat here and read your personal words … And your photos… They are magic … Thank you for sharing ! // Maria

    March 12, 2013
    • Thank you so very much!! I still adore my grandparents, who sadly passed years ago from my physical life. But he was an amazing and brave soul — an exceptionally gentle man, at that. 🙂

      Thank you again for your sweet words….

      March 13, 2013

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