On Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the United States of America was bombed into World War II.
A nation whose people were reluctant to join a war overseas quickly underwent an extreme attitude makeover, as its 140 million people mobilized to fight fascist aggression in Europe and the vast Pacific-Asian Theater.
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8093 in DeBary recently gathered to remember the U.S. entry into the war and the passing of one of their own, a Pearl Harbor survivor beloved by many.
James Edward Harriman was a radioman aboard the USS Ward, a destroyer whose crew fired upon and sank a Japanese miniature submarine attempting to enter the harbor and join the then-soon-coming air attack on U.S. warships based there. Historians credit the Ward for firing the first shots in the U.S. war against Japan.
The USS Ward continued patrolling off the entrance of Pearl Harbor while enemy planes attacked the U.S. warships, airfields and other military installations on Oahu, inflicting heavy damage and killing more than 2,400 Americans.
Harriman, then 18, spent the time of the attack sending and receiving messages related to the action. He continued to serve aboard the Ward during its long odyssey through the Pacific war, until — irony of ironies — the Ward was sunk by a Japanese kamikaze attack on Dec. 7, 1944, in a battle near the Philippines.
Harriman and his crewmates were pulled out of the sea by the crew of the USS O’Brien, whose executive officer was “the Lone Ranger,” actor Clayton Moore.
Harriman was a longtime member of the VFW, having joined the organization at Pearl Harbor in 1942. He stayed active for more than 75 years. He passed away Nov. 21, and about 100 friends gathered Dec. 5 to celebrate his life. Over the years, he became known as “Mr. Ed.”