Pentagram staff produces Pearl Harbor-themed Arlington National Cemetery walking tour
December 11, 2012
By Jim Dresbach
ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec. 11, 2012) -- Each individual grave inside the walls of Arlington National Cemetery has its own history, and in late November, a part of the Pentagram staff initiated an effort to remember the American servicemen who were killed in action at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
The staff concentrated on locating the final resting places of Pearl Harbor survivors who have recently passed away and compiled an Arlington National Cemetery, or ANC, walking tour of those who died and survived America's "day of infamy."
Now perpetually at ease and spread throughout the acres of ANC, Soldiers, Sailors, officers and enlisted personnel who lost their lives 71 years ago have been and are currently being joined by elderly veterans who survived the 7:55 a.m. surprise Japanese attack that December.
ARMY LEADER RESTS IN ANC
Approximately 150 yards from another World War II veteran, John F. Kennedy, the rectangular gravestone of Lt. Gen. Walter Short lays in Section 30 off of Sherman Drive. Short was in charge of the Army defense of the Hawaiian Islands before and up to the Japanese attack.
To one member of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall public affairs office, the final resting place of Short was one of the surprises of the tour.
"I did not know that General Short was buried there," joint base historian Kim Holien admitted after the tour. "Now, I'm interested in finding out where Admiral [Husband] Kimmel is buried. I did not know that the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association had a special coin insignia that they had placed at the base of a survivor's monument, marker or grave stone."
MORE DISCOVERIES ON TOUR
But Pentagram photographer Rachel Larue noticed. Toward the conclusion of the three-and-a-half hour journey Nov. 28, Larue noticed a hand-sized medallion at the bottom of the headstone of Navy veteran Earl C. Deitzler. The over-sized coin was sponsored by the former veteran advocate group, the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association.
"I was a little shocked because all I saw was a medallion," Larue recalled. "When I walked over to take a look, it was a Pearl Harbor survivor's medallion. I wasn't looking for it because I thought it involved Pearl Harbor, I was looking at it because I thought it was interesting."
To see an authentic PHSA medallion, visit Deitzler's grave in Section 66, grave 1553.
"That was a new one for me for as many times that I've been in the cemetery," Holien said of the survivor medallion. "I've never noticed that on any stone before."
The Pentagram staff who assembled the tour also surmised that a significant event occurred in the cemetery during a month's time in late October and November 1947. Ten servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor were reburied in section 12 in the vicinity of McClellan Gate -- nine were buried around this Armistice-Veterans Day timeframe.
First, John D. Buckley (grave 3080), Albert J. Hitrik (grave 3276) and Jack A. Pitcher of Michigan (grave 3526) were laid to rest, Nov. 7, 1947.
According to Holien, military families could request that loved ones killed in oversea theaters be reburied stateside, but the burials that autumn were no coincidence.
"Patriotism was still running high, and I'm sure these re-burials were done deliberately around the Armistice-Veterans Day holiday, so families could attend the services," Holien said.
On the eve of Armistice Day 1947, Walter S. Brown (grave 3313), Stanley Dosick (grave 3296), Navy Lt. Comm. John E. French (grave 3060) and Michael C. Yugovich (grave 2811) became part of Arlington. Yugovich celebrated his 20th birthday four days before the 1941 attack that drew America into World War II.
In near vertical succession, Yugovich, French, Dosick, Scott and Brown now rest beneath the thick sod just inside the walls of the original cemetery.
The tragedy of youth cut short of a full life was one emotion that pulled at Larue during the time spent in section 12.
"[Some of] the men buried there were kids," she said. "They were just into their 20s or late teens. They were buried in [vertical] rows, but not the [horizontal] rows you would think about."
Navy gunner's mate second class John C. Pensyl of Pennsylvania (grave 2855) and Illinois Sailor Arthur W. Russett were buried Oct. 30, and the final Pearl fatality who was laid to rest in section 12 during the time period was Earl W. Smith, on March 18, 1948.
The section 12, Pearl Harbor fallen are all located within a half block radius of each other in the middle of the section. (See page 8 and 9 for map and pictures)
THE MEMORIAL HILL AREA
Immediately south and southwest of the Memorial Amphitheater are the cemetery's "M sections" and section 21 which is informally known as the nurse's section.
The M sections, which run along the hillsides parallel to Porter Drive, are dedicated to remembering Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and U.S. Air Corps personnel whose remains were never recovered after the hostilities of war ceased.
A set of Colorado brothers, who joined the Navy and were stationed to serve aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, are remembered in section ME. Francis Jerome Morse and Norman Roi Morse were among 26 pairs of siblings who perished on the Arizona. Francis is located at marker 129 and yards away, a marker to Norman holds position 130.
Also memorialized is Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling, Jr. at section MI, site 159. A flight engineer of the 46th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, Sterling was killed during the attack and his body was never recovered.
Roughly at the intersection of Porter and Memorial Drives is the gravesite of Col. Irene Clark Woodman. The then-lieutenant was a nurse/anesthetist at Schofield Barracks Army Hospital the day of the attack. Clark Woodman went on to become the head of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She rests in section 21, gravesite 807-3.
One other nurse who witnessed the Pearl Harbor carnage was Monica Conter Benning. Benning passed away July, 2012 and her burial is pending. She will rest with her husband in section 66, grave 1004.
THE PAJAMA PILOT
Out of the tragedy of war, fabled stories eventually triumph, and the improbable tale of Army Air Corps pilot Dennis Rasmussen's Dec. 7, 1941, is one of courage and old-fashioned American savvy.
As an Army Air Corps 2nd lieutenant at Wheeler Airfield, Rasmussen -- dressed in his pajamas -- jumped in the cockpit of a P-36 Warhawk and recorded the first kill of a Japanese zero during World War II fighting. The former air fighter, who was only one of four American flyers to get airborne that Sunday morning, passed away in 2005 and is buried in section 66 at site 1390.
To the east of section 66 are the ANC columbarium courts where retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas William Mattingly rests for eternity. But during the 1940s and 1950s the army doctor did everything but rest. A witness to the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Mattingly continued to practice medicine and was one of the first doctors to treat President Dwight D. Eisenhower after his 1955 heart attack.
Mattingly's remains are located in court 3, section Y, Column 9 and niche 5 on the eastern edge of the cemetery just off Bradley Drive.
A SURVIVOR WILL NEVER FORGET
Ninety-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Jay Groff of Springfield recently recollected the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, during a phone interview with the Pentagram. Groff, who was a stalwart of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, can still recall the noise, his assignment and his initial whereabouts when the first bombs fell. But seventy-one years later, his urgent mission is more paramount in 2012 as his fellow servicemembers become just pages in oral history libraries.
"I want to keep Pearl Harbor alive," Groff said.
(Editor's note: The Pentagram recognizes that the Pearl Harbor walking tour is not a comprehensive and complete accounting of all Pearl Harbor fatalities or Pearl Harbor survivor's graves inside Arlington National Cemetery.)