History tells us that many Sailors who were awake on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7 – 68 years ago – were eating breakfast, heading to religious services, writing letters or reading.
Pearl Harbor Survivor Ed Johann was 17 years old on Dec. 7, 1941, young enough to have just gotten his tonsils out. On the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack he was working on a motorboat, getting ready to shuttle Sailors from ship to shore.
Before the war he’d read mostly westerns by Zane Grey and stories by Louis L’Amour.
After the war he read military history books. “I have over 100 books about Pearl Harbor – paperback and hard back,” he said. “Everybody should read more.”
The oldest living Medal of Honor Recipient, John W. Finn, who is also a Dec. 7 1941 Survivor, visited his namesake, at the Ford Island Boathouse on Dec. 6, 2009. (The JOHN W. FINN is a biodiesel-fuel boat, one of several at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, that takes thousands of visitors on any given day to the USS Arizona Memorial.)
John Finn told me his favorite author prior to WWII was Ernest Thompson Seton – author, artist and naturalist. “I always loved books about wildlife,” Finn said. Seton was a renowned conservationist, instrumental in preserving wilderness for future generations.
Art Herriford, National President of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, visited the Arizona Memorial on Dec. 7, 2009. There, he said, “Any time I come to Pearl Harbor it’s with reverence. I remember happy times before the attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. It changed the whole world, one way or another.”
Art said, “I read H. Allen Smith. He wrote a series of books. And I read a lot of humanitarian-type books.”
Survivor William K. Anderson said he read mostly magazines in the 1930s and 40s – like Popular Mechanics and various sports magazines.
“I was always interested in sports,” Bill Anderson remembers. “I read a lot of Zane Grey, too. I was a cowboy back in those days.”
Ret. Capt. R. E. Thomas liked Edgar Rice Burroughs as a young man.
Thomas was an ensign on USS Nevada and directed anti-aircraft fire against Imperial Japanese planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
During the 1940s he mostly read non-fiction, he said, but one of his favorite genres of fiction was historical fiction exemplified by C. S. Forester’s series of Horatio Hornblower novels.
“I was a big fan… I tried to emulate that as a naval officer,” he remembers. “In history, Horatio Hornblower was modeled after Admiral Nelson of the British Navy.”
OS2 Mikhael Davis reads fiction and non-fiction. She just finished Kite Runner and Three Cups of Tea. Before reading those two Navy Professional Reading Program selections she finished James Clavell’s Shogun. Now she’s reading Abraham Rabinovich’s Yom Kippur War.
Her shipmate, BM2(SW/AW) Matthew Tutt, is a science fiction fan and avid reader of westerns by writers such as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour and fantasy by Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs… some of the same authors on the reading lists of Sailors on Dec. 7, 1941.
Here's what CNO Adm. Gary Roughead said recently about the "imperative" of education for Sailors:
"Always be looking to expand your horizons, expand the depth of your knowledge…believe that every day you live, you will learn something new…the drive to learn should never end and it also opens great opportunities."