I Remember Pearl Harbor

Naval photograph documenting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Battleships USS WEST VIRGINIA and USS TENNESSEE are seen after the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. (Photo: PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES)My brother, Ted, was having trouble “finding” himself. We were still in the Depression, jobs were non-existent, he was dating a girl who lived 45 miles away, he had no car, no money so – he joined the Navy. As a college graduate, he qualified for their Officer Training Program and was assigned to a training ship in New York harbor. Life was looking better but his love life flopped. She returned his engagement ring. After several months, Ted received a commission as Ensign in the US Navy. He got orders to report to the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on December 1, 1941.

Enroute to Hawaii, Ted stopped in California and ordered a new Oldsmobile to be picked up on his return to the States. Little did he know that would be years later. We got a letter from him that first week in December. He was ecstatic. His world had turned around. He was on a major ship in Hawaii and even had a “Side Boy” assigned to him. Life was his oyster!

I was dating Ellen (my wife-to-be) and on December 7th we went to the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute. We heard the news on the trolley going home, “The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.” We went to church. Everyone did.

After a few agonizing days, we received a telegram. It said, “I’m O.K. I’m in a pup tent on the bank of Pearl Harbor. I have a change of underwear. That’s all. I’ll write later. Love, Ted.” We learned that Ted’s ship was sunk and his quarters were under water. Some time later the ship was raised sufficiently enough for Ted to get to his locker (which was still underwater) and he retrieved the engagement ring.

Later in the war, Ted was assigned to Atlantic submarine duty out of Boston. He reconnected with his girlfriend in Reading. She again accepted the much-traveled engagement ring and they were married. Today, Ted and Anna Mae Burchill, both 98 years old, live in a retirement community in Florida. He is in nursing care and she is in assisted living – but they are still together.

— Charlie Burchill

Editor’s Note: God bless them.

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