In America, we have Federal holidays to honor our military— Memorial Day (interestingly enough, originally observed to honor the fallen during the US Civil War) and Veterans Day. There are a number of unofficially observed holidays/ historical markers such as the birthdays of the various branches of the military, VE day, and of course 9/11. This past Saturday, December 7th marked the anniversary of the bombing at Pearl Harbor.
This isn’t going to be a lecture on the overarching events of the “date which will live in infamy”, as FDR famously called it. We’ve all been taught the story. Here at CiM5k, we’ve taken a special interest in focusing on the individual and getting us all moving to where we want to be. Sometimes in our personal journeys it’s hard to realize exactly what a single person can accomplish, how far we can go, and what we can do to help those around us.
So, as a reminder, and to honor those that fought that day at Pearl Harbor, allow me to tell you about Lieutenant (then Gunner) Jackson Charles Pharris.
Lt. Pharris, age 29, was aboard the USS California the day of the attack, in charge of the ordnance repair party on the third deck. He was stunned and severely injured by the concussion of the first Japanese torpedo that struck the ship near his station. Upon his recovery, with no orders given to press him into doing so, he set up a hand-supply ammunition’s train for the anti- aircraft artillery. The ship, without power, was hit by a second torpedo and quickly being flooded by water and oil, listed heavily port side.
Lt. Pharris ordered that counter-flooding measures (when compartments on the ship are filled with water to counterbalance the already flooded areas in order to keep the ship from capsizing) be taken while continuing to try and speed up the ammunition supply.
As fumes from the burning oil filled the ship, many of the remaining crew were rendered unconscious, Lt. Pharris among them. Twice, actually. Despite this and his injuries, he also repeatedly risked his life by diving into flooding compartments and dragging unconscious shipmates to safety.
Due to his inspiring actions, Lt. Pharris managed to save the lives of many of his shipmates and is greatly responsible for keeping the USS California afloat and in action during the Pearl Harbor conflict. (Ultimately, the California sank due to sustained damages a few days later, was re-floated, reconstructed, and re-commissioned)
For his actions at Pearl Harbor, Lt. Jackson Charles Pharris was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1948 by President Truman “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Lt. Pharris survived the attack and was hospitalized for three months before returning to duty. He retired from the military in 1948, married, had four children, and after passing away in 1966 was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Thanks to the Arlington National Cemetery Website at www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jpharris.htm for full details on the story of this American hero.