Les Patterson’s Monday Morning Boost: Aloha from Hawaii!

  • Alfred Benjamin Kameeiamoku Rodrigues sat in chair with a table full of books in front of him. They were copies of his book, a book he wrote at the persistent encouragement of his son. Alfred had something to share with those “many visitors, of all ages and from all over the world, [who] came to pay their respect to those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941.”

    You see, Alfred is a Pearl Harbor Survivor. He’s one of a rapidly dwindling number who survived the day “which will live in infamy.”

    He was 21 back then, stationed on the battleship USS Washington. He’s now 96.

    We had a chance to meet Al, as he liked to be called, last Friday as he sat at that small table signing copies of his book, Diary of a Pearl Harbor Survivor.

    We were in Pearl Harbor on the first day of a two week vacation to Hawaii. Our oldest son Cody is in the Army stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. He’s been here for three years and is nearing time for a transfer. So we figured it was time to see him.

    Al hugged us while posing for pictures, pulling us a little tighter with each hug, taking time to visit, and asked about our family.

    Meeting Al and listening to his story personalized our long awaited trip. With his memories fresh on our mind we continued exploring Pearl Harbor.

    My emotions were stirred as we walked through the memorial of names honoring those who were killed on December 7th. I read with reverence the names of all those on the USS Utah. I noted Chief Water Tender Peter Tomich’s name was printed in gold lettering signifying he was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

    His citation reads:

    For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, and extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

    We gained a better appreciation for the vast open space we live in as we crept through the submarine USS Bowfin. Living in such tight spaces for months on a time would test the mental capacity of any person. To do so under wartime conditions raises my appreciation for what those sailors did for our country.

    Next up was the USS Missouri. This massive battleship saw war time service in World War II, though it was not in Pearl Harbor on the ill-fated day in 1941. Later on she served in the Korean and Persian Gulf Wars. The “Mighty Mo,” as she is affectionately known, was the last of serving battleship before being decommissioned in 1992.

    The USS Missouri is most famous for her role as the setting for the surrender of Japan that ended World War II. On her hallowed decks while sitting in Tokyo Bay, General of the Army Douglas McArthur, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, and leaders of every allied country, accepted the surrender of Japan. A plaque mounted on her decks marks the spot where history took place.

    A beautiful collection of 429 granite markers stand on Ford Island in honor and remembrance of the sailors and marines who were killed on the USS Oklahoma. Her story is not as well-known as her more famous sister, mostly due to the fact no memorial stood to honor her fallen sons till 2007. Now there is a place to remember. 

    Unfortunately we were unable to visit the USS Arizona. The memorial is under construction in preparation for the 75th commemoration this year. It’s slated to reopen our last day here and we hope to visit.

    While we will enjoy many wonderful experiences here in Hawaii, many that will lingering in my memory, it will be the stronger connections I’ve created with a few of the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation that will linger in my soul.

    Have a great Monday. Mahalo nui loa! 

    Les Patterson 

    p.s. Take 13 minutes today to learn more about Pearl Harbor Survivor Al Rodriguez and Medal of Honor Recipient Peter Tomich.