What Pearl Harbor survivors read 76 years ago

(from left)Ray Emory. File photos; Delton “Wally” Walling. Photo by MC2 Katarzyna Kobiljak

Review by Bill Doughty

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

What did Pearl Harbor survivors read before and after Dec. 7, 1941?

Clark J. Simmons of USS Utah told me in 2011, immediately after the 70th commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day, “My mother was a librarian. We did quite a bit of reading. She inundated us with books. I had three sisters and all of us were readers. I would read anything I could get my hands on.”

Marshall LaFavor, son of Chief Warrant Officer Machinist Franklyn LeFavor, grew up in a Navy family.

“One of the first things we did when we went to a new base was check in at the library and get our library cards,” Marshall said.

“My dad was a big Zane Grey fan. Being at sea for so long he said he wanted to read something with sand in his boots.”

His dad also enjoyed reading C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower books, and after the war he read “Day of Infamy.”

Ray Emory of USS Honolulu told me earlier in the year, on his way to a Sacred Tea Ceremony aboard USS Arizona Memorial, that he only had time for his ship’s manual during the war. He distinctly remembered its oil-stained and sea-sprayed pages and mentioned losing it during action in the western Pacific.

Today, Emory helps write the history of what happened at Pearl Harbor; he is a champion of the recently identified casualties of Pearl Harbor.

Delton “Wally” Walling, who happened to be with watch-standers in the shipyard water tower during the attack, even though he wasn’t on duty, also read only the manuals he needed to read to be an effective signalman during the war.

“We were young kids coming in. We had nothing, no supplies, no libraries,” he told me. “After the war I wanted to try to forget.”

George Bennett, national secretary of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association (which disbanded in late 2011) said he enjoyed reading books of short stories and, after the war, about the history of what went on behind the scenes leading up to and during World War II — especially about intelligence and cryptanalysts and code breakers who did so much to help Adm. Chester Nimitz and Adm. Raymond Spruance win at the Battle of Midway and across the Pacific throughout the war.

William F. Howell of USS Phoenix was a fan of Adm. William Halsey, Jr. during and after the war.

“Read Sea of Thunder,” he told me. “Read about Halsey.”

Simmons, whose librarian mother instilled a love for reading, said, “I recommend history books — all history. And don’t forget to study math and science!” (Clark Simmons, a native of Beaumont, Texas, passed away earlier this year in Brooklyn, New York.)

A version of this review first appeared in 2011 on Doughty’s Navy Reads blog at http://navyreads.blogspot.com/.

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