- Lisa Powell Staff Writer
The anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, is a time to reflect on American sacrifice and heroism.
Here are three stories of valor with ties to our region:
In 2016 Rolla “Ed” Malan of Fairborn, and Frank M. Ruby, of Vandalia, shared their stories of surviving the Japanese bombardment of the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.
Both men were sleeping when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched “Operation Hawaii” and the first of two waves of attacks spearheaded by aircraft carrier-launched warplanes against U.S. battleships at anchor in Pearl Harbor and Army Air Forces planes at Wheeler, Hickham and Bellows airfields.
“The bombers were close to the water and I could see their (pilots’) faces,” said Ruby, who was aboard an oil barge laden with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. “I thought this is going to be my last day.”
“The noise woke us up,” Malan said. “Planes flying around banging, banging. We didn’t know what it was. One of the fellas got up, went to the window and a plane went by because he said, ‘That’s Japanese.’ And nobody believed him.”
The remains of a Springfield man returned home last year, nearly 75 years after he was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor
William “Billy” Welch was killed aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma, the first ship to be hit by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. He had just turned 18 a month before.
Welch’s body was one of hundreds that wasn’t identified after the attack. The U.S.S. Oklahoma sat on the sea bed of Pearl Harbor for months before the victims could be removed from the wreckage.
Through efforts in recent years by the U.S. Department of Defense, the sailors remains were identified. Welch’s ashes arrived in Ohio in October 2016, draped in a U.S. flag and accompanied off a plane by a Navy crew.
The ashes of the Springfield native’s remains were buried next to his parents at Calvary Cemetery with full military honors.
Dayton native Richard E. Cole is the only living member of the team that bombed Japan in retaliation for the Japanese Navy’s surprise attack against the U.S. fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor.
On April 18, 1942, 80 Army Air Forces airmen climbed into 16 B-25B Mitchell bombers in groups of five to fly off deck of the USS Hornet and travel across hundreds of miles of ocean to bomb Japan.
Cole was co-pilot to the raid leader, then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, a legendary record-setting aviator.
“There was a bit of scariness but we had trained for 45 days,” Cole said in a telephone interview in April from his Texas home. “We were supposed to light up Tokyo and do as much damage as possible.”
Cole, at 101-years-old, returned to Dayton in April to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the mission.