Some East Texas Vets Remember Pearl Harbor

by Stuart Burson

Tuesday marked the 63rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when much of the U.S. Naval fleet was caught by surprise by Japanese fighter planes. About 2400 people were killed in the sneak attack.

Nineteen forty-one was a long time ago, but for two East Texas men, the events of December 7, 1941 are still fresh in their minds.

To hear J. B. Bullock recall it, you'd think it was yesterday.

"About that time, we had a porthole right next to my locker. I looked out that porthole and I saw a big mushroom go up. I looked out the porthole again and another big bomb exploded out there. So, by that time, they sounded the alarm -- general quarters -- all men go to your quarter station. So, I just dropped everything."

Bullock was stationed aboard the USS Nevada, anchored across from the Arizona. When the bombs hit, his ship started taking on water.

"They said, 'Everyone come to the top side because we're taking on water and probably sinking,' so we went to the doors, what we called 'dogs'. You pulled the dogs down to keep the water from coming inside. And, evidently, the water done got a little high above that door. We couldn't open the door. Of course, since we couldn't open the door, everybody was thinking, 'My gosh, this is it!'"

Bullock and most of his friends did manage to get out, but one of his friends didn't make it. It's something he remembers well.

"He got hit. He got into machine gun fire and, after he fell down in there, his head was sheered off. I picked his head up. And you know, that will unerve you. I'll never forget it."

James Cochran wasn't enlisted yet when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, but those events called him into duty.

"My next door neighbor -- he went in to have a job in 1939, and he was killed at Pearl Harbor. And that pretty well prompted me to want to go and do my part."

Cochran had just turned 16, not old enough to enlist. So, he lied when he signed up.

"Yes, it was what I call a patriotic fib. I think the Lord will forgive me for doing that. I depend on Him for everything now. I trust in Him. I think He'll forgive me."

For many, Pearl Harbor is now just a page in the history books. But for the increasingly few remaining who lived through it, that day remains a vivid memory.