Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gun blazing, he held his ground

From The Star Telegram, one man's story from Dec. 7, 1941:

FORT WORTH -- Sixty-five years ago today, the history books record a great American loss.

Close to 200 parked airplanes burned, 18 mighty ships damaged or destroyed, more than 2,400 dead, a feeling of national invincibility evaporated. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.

But battles are not just won or lost at the strategic level. At the level where finger meets trigger and boot meets dirt, wars are fought by men, and from that level on Dec. 7, 1941, Ralph C. Riddle scored his own, admittedly small, victory.
The article goes into the history of how Master Sergeant Riddle joined first the Army Calvary, then transferred to the Army Air Force.
His first assignment that autumn of '41 was in Hawaii. They moved him around the islands a few times until he landed in late November at Wheeler Field, where the Army Air Forces kept fighter squadrons.

Riddle was a military policeman who just happened to be pretty handy with large-caliber machine guns.

"At Fort Bliss, the top 10 gunners got $10 extra a month," he said. "I ruint my ears doing it, but I done it."

A bomb that dropped on a hangar next to Riddle's barracks served as his wake-up call on the morning of Dec. 7. Everyone spilled out of the barracks, holding helmets and gas masks. People started running for cover, crawling under buildings.

Over the din, Riddle could hear his sergeant.

"I was more scared of the provost sergeant than I was of the Japs," he said.

The sergeant wanted to know who could operate the .50-caliber gun on top of the building. Riddle said he could.

The only volunteer to go up on top of the building with Riddle, in plain sight of the Japanese bombers and fighters, was a soldier who had been released from the brig during the attack. His job was to crank the water cooler to keep the gun cool and to feed the ammunition.

"All you could hear was this drone of planes. You couldn't see nothing because of the smoke," he said. "I wouldn't have known a Jap plane if I'd seen it. I was 21 years old. Fresh off the farm."
You will have to go here to find out what happened on the top of that building and how Private First Class Riddle got promoted to sargent and earned the Silver Star.

1 comment:

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