Ridgeland resident recalls father’s Pearl Harbor time
The day that will live in infamy — Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor — was 80 years ago this week, and the memory lives fresh in the mind of Ridgeland resident Ellenor Fraley whose father, the late William Shannon, survived the attack.
Shannon served in the U.S. Navy and was on his patrol post the night of Dec. 7, 1941, and experienced the bombing of Pearl Harbor first-hand.
“He refused to talk about that day for years and would leave the room anytime a military show or movie would come on television,” Fraley said.
Her father finally opened up about his experience after seeing the 1970 film “Tora! Tora! Tora!” about the Pearl Harbor bombing.
“He felt sheer terror and helplessness, and there were no rounds to load the guns with since the ammunition was all locked up and under inspection,” Fraley said. “The part he remembered the most is a lot of the boys on his ship falling into the water and drowning because they didn’t know how to swim.”
Shannon joined the Navy when he was only 18, Fraley said, and rose to the rank of Boatswain 1st Class. He left the Navy with an honorable discharge in August 1945 after working as a salvage diver on Long Island. He died in 1989 at the age of 70.
The bombing killed more than 2,400 Americans and destroyed several battleships, including the USS Mississippi, the battleship Shannon was on when the bombing began.
“When the bombing started, he was on the Mississippi,” Fraley said. “The saddest thing was a lot of the men on the ship drowned because they didn’t know how to swim. He did save some, but he couldn’t save them all. He swam to the Oklahoma battleship and got on there until it got bombed, too. He swam to shore and went to seek medical treatment for his eardrums, which turned out to be permanent.”
Fraley said she remembers her father having bad dreams when she was young and attributed them to PTSD.
“Daddy said most of the young men on the ship thought it was a practice drill,” Fraley said. “He said he immediately knew what it was since he had been there long enough to tell. He was trying to tell the other sailors that didn’t know what was going on that it wasn’t a drill and to get to the guns, but they couldn’t load any of them due to the inaccessible ammunition.”
Fraley said her father loved his time in the Navy and remained a big outdoorsman after the war. She said he loved being on the water to sail around and fish.
Fraley said the Pearl Harbor bombing was one of the saddest days in the history for America, but the country stood up and fought back against the Japanese.
“We rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of the bombing and got to work building ships, tanks and planes to defeat the Japanese at sea,” Fraley said. “We should be so proud of the men and women, like my daddy, in the Navy who fought and risked their lives so we could all be free.”