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By SHERRY PRESTON Columnist
Donald Stratton, native of Red Cloud, Nebraska, tells the story of how he survived the sinking of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Stratton was severely burned and survived only by crossing a rope, hand over hand, far above the water to another ship. Stratton was one of the 335 men onboard who survived the attack. Over 1500 sailors were onboard the USS Arizona at the time.
Hundreds and hundreds of books have been written about World War II. This slim book stands out because it tells a personal story, with just enough backstory to put the reader in the time and place but not so much that someone who isn’t a WWII buff wouldn’t enjoy it.
Stratton’s story of grit and perseverance is incredible. After being medically discharged he recovered from his burns and then reenlisted in the Navy. Stratton fought in the first battle of WWII and the last major battle of the war, at Okinawa. Towards the end of the book he warns the reader to not forget lessons learned at Pearl Harbor. As a veteran he is proud of his country, but he sees serious flaws in how the government and the armed services in particular handled information hinting at an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He encourages leaders to be expedient with passing down information so military leaders can make informed decisions.
“In January 1941, Admiral Kimmel and General Short were advised by the secretaries of the Navy and the Army that Japan might launch a surprise attack against the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. They went on to say the attack would most likely be from the air…Overconfident is too generous a term. The more accurate word is arrogant. We just thought we knew it all.”
Donald Stratton passed away this spring in Colorado Springs. He wanted people to not forget what happened during the attack on Pearl Harbor and he fought for recognition of the sailor who tossed the rope, against orders, that he and his crewmates were able to cross over into the USS Vestal.
You can find “All the Gallant Men” on the biography shelf at the Gering Public Library. We also have a large variety of WWII biographies and more detailed books about the war.
June 21, 2020 | www.starherald.com
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