For FF veteran, Pearl Harbor attack still vivid memory [UPDATED]Published 4:31am Tuesday, May 28, 2013 Updated 6:32am Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Fergus Falls veteran Gene Davis has a lot to remember on Memorial Day.
Davis, who grew up in San Diego, boarded the USS California in Bremerton, Wash. before the country’s involvement in WWII. He was 20 years old when the ship left port and traveled to Pearl Harbor.
“At the time I went aboard I was just a young man,” Davis said. “I was just learning to be a sailor.”
Davis was setting up chairs for a church service around 9 a.m. the morning of December 7, 1941. After he had finished, he went below to tell the men in his division to get ready for church. When he returned to the deck, he heard a plane and saw the Japanese insignia. The first thought he had was that they were under attack.
“I went down again and yelled for general quarters,” Davis said. “I told them to get out of their bunks and that we were being attacked. I got a lot of different answers to that.”
The men readied themselves to repel the attack, but were slowed by disbelief. They had stored all the ammunition at the bottom of the ship in preperation for an admiral’s inspection, so there was little to fire.
“We were just trying to get set to do our firing because there were planes coming in,” Davis said. “A lot of them.”
Around 9:30 a.m., a bomb hit the ship. When it started to sink, the men swam ashore, where some stayed to help on land. Others, including Davis, swam back to help their shipmates and to try and fix what they could.
“I was feeling that we had to do something to get the ship in condition so we could go out after them,” Davis said.
When they returned, an explosion sent Davis 100 feet through the air, down to the quarter deck below. He couldn’t get up or hear anything. A day after the attack, a minimal amount of his hearing returned. He continued to struggle with the ailment after the war.
Davis returned with the ship to Bremerton, where the crew made it battle ready before they left for combat in the Pacific. He later met his wife, Edna, at a New Year’s Eve party in San Diego. After a short time in Washington when the war was over, the two moved to Fergus Falls, Edna’s hometown, where Davis spent 30 years with the US postal service.
Davis said his years in the Navy were some of the best in his life, even after living through one of the war’s deadliest events.
“We always had a real good time,” Davis said. “It was a real good group of men.”
Davis’ division lost nine men out of the 2,402 who were killed that day. On Memorial Day, Davis said he remembers two childhood friends killed in the attack.
“There were two boys on the Arizona that I grew up with. They went to school with me,” Davis said. “On Saturday, I had talked to them and they were getting along good. On Sunday they were killed.”
Memorial Day ceremonies honoring those who died in combat console Davis and his memories. Davis said the men he served with and the day that changed his life will always stay with him.
“It means a lot to me because it was a good group of people that helped each other,” Davis said. “But I remember everything from that day. I’ll never forget it.”