Today, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day. As a kid, I never knew anything about it until I realized that man in the newspaper on the front page story was the father of my friend, Dale Duren. Elmer Duren was a soft spoken, easy going man with bright blue eyes and dark, somewhat wavy hair. Three hundred sixty four days a year, one would never have guessed he lived through the Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.
Elmer had joined the Navy during the Depression. Elmer Duren was a seaman on the U.S.S. Dale, a destroyer. My friend Dale was named in honor of those who served with Elmer on the U.S.S. Dale.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, newspapers regularly ran large stories and accompanying photos about Pearl Harbor Day. As a veteran of that attack, Elmer Duren was regularly sought out to talk about it. He always took the time to be kindly responsive, but it's a story I never heard him mention any other time.
I'll let his son, Dale, tell his dad's Pearl Harbor story.
"He had already eaten breakfast and had gone on deck with an orange for a snack, when he noticed planes flying through the harbor airspace. It wasn’t anything unusual to see planes there, except the carriers were not in the harbor that morning. The first explosion near the battleship Utah brought him to the realization that the Pacific fleet base was under attack and he could make out the rising sun emblems on their wings.
"His normal station was below decks tending boilers, but since the Dale was moored, most boilers were not in operation. Smokestacks of idle boilers were covered so he climbed the stack and removed the covers so the boilers could be fired up. From the smokestack he had a perfect view of the attack in progress.
"The Dale normally took several hours to produce the steam power necessary to get under way, but while under attack, they broke all the rules to get the ship moving toward open sea. The captain was not actually on board so a 'Chief' issued the commands necessary to take to sea. The captain caught up to them days later.
"The Dale was one of the first ships to exit the harbor while it was under attack. Daddy always said he really didn’t feel any fear during the attack because he hadn’t known what destruction the planes could do. He said later on in the war he was more afraid of one plane than all those that day.
"The Dale was a destroyer, which was kind of like a sentry or picket ship. They provided additional anti-aircraft firepower and submarine defense to groups of ships such as carriers and battleships.
"When The Dale had gotten clear of the harbor, they patrolled looking for submarines in the vicinity of the harbor. There were 5 miniature submarines which had attempted to slip into the harbor to join the attack, but they were unsuccessful.
"Daddy never spoke much about the war until 20 or more years after its end. As he grew older he reminisced more and more."
Elmer is gone, and with his passing another solid timber in the most important war ever fought is no longer with us. We were enriched by his presence, and we should take one moment on this Pearl Harbor Day to remember him and all who served there with him.
Copyright 2007, Jim "Pappy" Moore, all rights reserved.