Jerry Summers: 15 Heroes Of Pearl Harbor - No. 2

Saturday, December 5, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Although there were hundreds or thousands of heroes on the fateful date of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, a select few of 15 Navy Servicemen and Officers received the nation's highest recognition of heroism.

We are remembering in alphabetical order their bravery in three articles.

The attack claimed almost 2,500 people and devastated the U.S. Naval fleet and airfields - leading to America’s entry into World War II.

6. Ensign Herbert C. Jones (1918-1941) was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy in 1940 after enlisting in the United States Naval Reserve in 1935.

He reported to the battleship USS California and served on that vessel commencing in November 1940 and was assigned to Pearl Harbor.

On Dec.

7, Jones was about to relieve the officer-of-the-deck when Japanese planes attacked.

In the first wave, a torpedo and bomb hit the ship.  He organized and led a party to supply ammunition to the anti-aircraft battery of the vessel after the mechanical hoists were put out of action.

He was fatally wounded by another bomb explosion and, although two sailors attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to do so, saying in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off!”

Jones was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and in 1943 the destroyer escort USS Herbert C. Jones was named in his honor.

7. Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd (1884-1941) was killed on the bridge of the ill-fated USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Kidd was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1906 where he was an instructor in 1916-1917.

He previously served on the USS New Jersey, Pittsburgh, New Mexico, Utah, Vega until becoming Captain of the Port at Chrisobal, Panama Canal Zone, in 1927-30. After being promoted to the rank of Captain, he was Chief of Staff to Commander, Base Force, U.S. Fleet in 1930-1932.

After serving in Washington, D.C. for three years, he was Commander Destroyer Squadron One, Scouting Force in 1935-1937.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, at the first knowledge of the attack Rear Admiral Kidd pushed to the bridge of his flagship USS Arizona and remained there discharging his duties even as the ship blew up from magazine explosions until a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted in the loss of his life.

He also was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and three Navy destroyers, the USS Kidds, have been named in his honor.

8. Lieutenant Jackson C. Pharris (1912-1966) was a gunner on the USS California at Pearl Harbor who was in charge of an ordinance repair party on the third deck of the ship when the first torpedo stuck almost directly under his station.  Although seriously injured by explosions and twice rendered unconscious by nauseous oil fumes while setting up a hand-supply ammunition train for anti-aircraft guns, he ordered the shipfitters to counterflood the compartments to address a list of the ship.

Although handicapped by painful injuries, he repeatedly risked his life to enter the flooded areas and drag to safety unconscious shipmates who were gradually being submerged in oil.

In 1972 the destroyer escort USS Pharris was named in his honor.

9. Chief Radioman Thomas J. Reeves (1895-1941) was one of the older crew members on the USS California at Pearl Harbor.

He had enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve as Electrician Third Class in 1917, released in 1919, recalled to active duty in 1920, discharged in 1921 and then re-enlisted that same year making the Navy his career.

Reeves advanced through the ranks to Chief Radioman and was serving in that capacity when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

During the attack in a burning passageway, he assisted in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the anti-aircraft guns until he was overcome by smoke and fire which resulted in his death.

Reeves received the Medal of Honor posthumously and in 1943 the destroyer escort USS Reeves was named in his honor.

10. Chief Machinist Donald K. Ross (1910-1992) was an officer of the United States Navy who had the distinction of being the first Medal of Honor recipient during World War II for his actions at Pearl Harbor.

Ross first enlisted in the Navy in 1929 and initially was assigned to the transport ship USS Henderson on a China service trip. 

His first action in combat was aboard the hospital ship USS Relief in Nicaragua in 1931.

Advancing through the ranks, he served on the minesweeper USS Brant, destroyer USS Simpson, and cruiser USS Minneapolis prior to attaining the rank of Warrant Officer Machinist in 1940 and being assigned to the battleship USS Nevada.

When the battleship was badly damaged by bombs and torpedoes at Pearl Harbor, Ross assumed responsibility to furnish power to get the ship underway in an effort to get the vessel away from the Japanese attack.

When the forward dynamo room filled with smoke and steam, he forced his crew members to leave and continued servicing the equipment until he became blinded and unconscious.  Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned to secure both the forward and aft rooms until he lost consciousness a second time.  Awaking again, he returned to his duties until the USS Nevada was beached after it was moved under its own power and was prevented from sinking in the channel and blocking other ships in the harbor.

Although his vision was impaired, he insisted on helping with rescue efforts and, after three weeks, his vision returned.

For his heroic efforts he was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was personally presented to him by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1942.

After being commissioned an ensign in 1947, he would continue to serve on the Nevada during the D Day landings at Normandy and also Southern France.

He retired from active duty in 1956 as a captain, having served aboard every type of service ship then afloat.

During the 50th anniversary ceremonies at Pearl Harbor he was given the dual honors of introducing President George W. Bush and dedication of a memorial to his old ship the USS Nevada.

(This is part two of three articles honoring the 15 Naval members who won the Medal of Honor for heroism on Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.)

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)  


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