Spencer, OK – Bob Cowles has seen a lot over his 97 years. It’s his birthday today, July 15, and he has stories his grandson wanted you to read. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was stationed in Hawaii. Because he was on the swim team, he didn’t have to do much except swim and occasionally work the switchboard. Until the morning of December 7, 1941, when everything changed.
He went to bed at 2 a.m. At 8 a.m., air raid sirens went off and bombs began dropping on nearby Hickam Air Field.
The Japanese Navy “Zero” fighters were bombing Hickam Field right next to the Marine barracks, just over the fence, Cowles said. Hickam was adjacent to Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base.
Cowles and others in his barracks started firing at the Japanese aircraft with their bolt-action rifles. Were they making any kind of difference? He doesn’t know for sure, he said. But adds, “we felt like we were striking back.”
“They weren’t wasting anything on us; they were concentrating on the air field,” Cowles said, “but it really gave us a feeling of strength and resistance to be fighting as they were dive-bombing. I was just 19 years old and proud to be out there.”The Oklahoman – Read more at this link from 2011
He borrowed a motorcycle to go help with communication lines that had been damaged in the attack. Then he arrived at the harbor and witnessed the carnage of US battleships. The water was on fire, and small boats maneuvered through it to pick up survivors.
Many of America’s most powerful ships were damaged…we are all familiar with what happened to the USS Arizona, and the damage to the USS Tennessee moored nearby. The sound of sailors pounding on the ships, trapped beneath the water. Men desperately trying to use cutting torches to rescue trapped sailors… the smell of oil and fire, the screams, the worries of the unknown, Bob Cowles called it a “pretty terrifying day.”
You just felt like you wanted to do anything it took to try and compensate for the people that had been lost, killed, and the damage that had been done.” Bob Cowles
A year and a half later, he was shipped away from Hawaii and entered the war in the Pacific Theater, including the battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Bob, we salute you on this your 97th birthday. Thank you for your service, and being part of “The Greatest Generation.”