December 7, 1941 is a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed as one which will live in infamy. It was the day that Japanese planes raced over the sky
on the U.S. naval base of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and fired bullets, bombs and torpedoes. Bill McAnany of Jefferson City served on the USS Solace and was nearby at the time of the attack.
“Probably the biggest thing in my naval life was the invasion of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, where I happened to be at that particular time,” he says. “It was quite shocking. You could look off to your right from where we were standing and we saw these anti-aircraft bursts. All of a sudden, a plane fell out of the sky.”
McAnany was twenty years old and serving in the Navy as an X-ray technician aboard the 400-bed hospital ship. He says it was quite an experience.
“There were very few at that time wounds,” he says. “But everybody was burned because if they got thrown off the ship, they were in that water. It was all very, very hot.”
McAnany says the “hairiest” part of the day came at 9:30 p.m. when a U.S. aircraft carrier with six fighter planes entered and took care of business.
“They buzzed the field and all the sudden, the sky lit up like day. It reminded you of the Star-Spangled Banner. One guy got down safe. The rest of them were shot out of the sky,” he says.
Japan damaged all eight U.S. Navy battleships and four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service.
“We were about 100 yards away from the USS Arizona,” says McAnany. “And they were coming in using our ship as a marker to come into, but they didn’t drop any bombs near us or anything.”
When the attack was over, McAnany says he and his ship mates were required to remain on the USS Solace until after Christmas.
“They were being cautious because there was a lot of talk about invasions,” McAnany says.
He says the aftermath of the strike was brutal.
“We would send a couple of boats out every day and they would just go through the harbor and picking up the guys that had come to the surface,” says McAnany. “We were doing that until we left in mid-March.”
The attack killed more than 2,400 Americans and wounded 1,100 others – launching America’s entry into World War II.
McAnany served his country for 20 years, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He spent much of his 20-year Navy career in Asia.
The 98-year-old St. Louis native wants to spend his 100th birthday visiting Pearl Harbor, which falls around the time of his 50th wedding anniversary and the 80th anniversary of the attack.
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