Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:00 AM
Seventy-one years ago, 16 men from Neshoba County found themselves in harm's way, stationed on or near Oahu Island in Hawaii, during the first week in December 1941.
James Fortenberry, Malcolm Jones, Charles "Bert" Posey, William Long and Quinton Copeland occupied bunks at Schofield Army Barracks, northwest of Pearl Harbor.
Hershel Beasley and Bert Winstead served at Wheeler Army Field, also north of the sprawling Naval Base.
Immediately to the east lay Hickam Field, the Army Air Corps base that was home to Woodrow Clark.
To the southwest of Pearl City, the Marine Corps based their soldiers near Ewa, and the men there included Jim Tom Outzs, Jesse Loumas Spears and Lester Brown.
William Kirby was in Naval Quarters at Pearl Harbor, while Everett Willis, brothers Gully Bassett and John "Tommie" Bassett patrolled with the submarine U.S.S. Holland, the battleship U.S.S. Maryland, and the coastal minesweeper U.S.S. Condor, respectively.
Marine Private First Class Leon Gardner was attached to, and served aboard the battle, U.S.S. Tennessee.
At 3:42 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941, Tommie Bassett's ship, Condor, spotted a submarine periscope near the buoys floating and marking the entrance to Pearl Harbor, a restricted area that prohibited submerged submarine operations.
After nearly colliding with the mysterious vessel, the Condor flashed a message to the destroyer, U.S.S. Ward, of the Inshore Patrol,
"Sighted submerged submarine on westerly course, speed 9 knots."
At 6:40 a.m., the Ward found the uninvited naval ship trailing, underwater, the U.S.S. Antares, a general store and issue ship, with a large barge in tow, moving into the entrance to Pearl Harbor.
Within minutes, the #1 and #3 guns of the destroyer fired two shots at the alien visitor, striking the Japanese vessel at the waterline beneath its conning tower.
The enemy ship heeled to the starboard and began to sink.
Depth charges from the Ward finished the attack.
At 6:53 a.m., the commander of the Ward notified the Communication Watch Officer, 14th Naval District, of the incident and the hideous and cowardly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Dubbed Tora, Tora, Tora, by the Japanese Supreme War Council, the aggression marked Japan's entry into World War II.
In the Control Tower at Hickam Field, Staff Sergeant Woodrow W. Clark, Company K, 15th Signal Service Regiment, played with his "home-made" radio when the Japanese attacks began.
An old colonel in the tower with Clark said, "Well, it looks like the Navy is getting ready to smoke-screen out Pearl Harbor again."
Sergeant Clark replied, "Colonel, that not white phosphorus that's coming up. That's black smoke. Those are enemy aircraft."
"By necessity I had to take over part of the ground stations, and I surprised myself and the officers seemed to think I did a pretty good job of it," recalled the Neshoba County Air Corpsman.
The old tower officer downplayed the destruction caused by the attack, noting that the bombardment had destroyed no major installation.
Disregarding the colonel's damage assessment, the Neshoba radioman correctly declared: "But the Japs won't break down as many [Americans] superstitiously think they will. We are fighting "Beasts" who have little human reasoning left. We are up against something, but I don't think the people at home are beginning to realize we are actually in the war."
For his capable handling of communications during the early December assault, Sergeant Clark received an appointment to an officer's training school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where, six months later, the Signal Corps awarded him the commission of a second lieutenant.
Fifteen months later, the War Department discharged Lieutenant Woodrow Wilson Clark from active service with a medical disability resulting from injuries suffered during the Oahu bombardment.
While a few may not have grasped the severity of the military situation, there was, in fact, no question that Neshoba County was at war!
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South
Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350
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