A heroic veteran who saved six men aboard a sinking ship blown apart by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor is finally being honored for his courage and bravery.
Seventy-six years ago Thursday, Japan launched a surprise attack on the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. During the brutal attack, Japanese bombs ripped through the Pennsylvania-class battleship USS Arizona, igniting the powder magazine and causing a violent explosion. As the ship sank into the harbor, it took over a thousand American lives with it.
Because one man defied the orders of his superior officer, a handful of sailors were able to escape tragedy.
Joe George, a boatswain’s mate second class, was ordered to cut the line between the USS Arizona and the USS Vestal, a repair ship moored alongside the crippled ship. As he prepared to do so, he heard the cries of two wounded sailors begging him to throw them a rope. His commanding officer told George to ignore their pleas and cast off, but that order didn’t sit right with George, who cast a lifeline out to the USS Arizona, USA Today reports.
George was a muscular man, and he had to throw the line around 70 to 80 feet. “He was probably the only guy that could have got that line to us,” one of the two men recalled to CBS News.
The two sailors were Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner. The former had suffered severe burns, and the latter had been shot through the leg. Both men survived the attack, along with four others, although two men later succumbed to their wounds, the Los Angeles Times introduced.
The six men all thought they were going to die. They were surrounded by fire and desperate to get off the ship.
George was commended by the Navy, and his actions were noted in his record, but despite his heroism, he was never awarded a metal for his valor as his heroism was the result of an act of defiance. George passed away in 1996, but his family has fought tirelessly for the honor he deserved.
Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will present the Bronze Star Medal to George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor at Pearl Harbor Thursday. Of the five USS Arizona survivors still alive today, two are men that George saved that fateful day 76 years ago. Both Bruner and Stratton will be there when Taylor accepts the award.
“It means everything,” Taylor told the LA Times, adding, “It’s a wonderful, exciting thing because it validates everything we know about my father.” President Donald Trump has personally thanked Taylor for helping to share her father’s story.
After hearing that George would finally receive a medal for his actions, Bruner reportedly said: “It’s about damn time.”
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