The sheet music of a song made famous by Pearl Harbor.
Those of us who were born prior to World War II vividly remember the attack on Pearl Harbor which heralded World War II; there were few families who weren’t affected one way or another by this dark day in American history. I’m no exception. With fuzzy but loving memories of a five year old, I think of Edward Joseph "Bud" Heidt and his twin brother Wesley John Heidt who were among the more than 1100 men killed on the U.S.S. Arizona at Oahu, Hawaii. On Dec. 7, 1941. These brothers were in the engine room, we were later told and probably never knew what hit them, and they now lay at rest beneath the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
My sister Donna was unofficially engaged to Bud Heidt when he shipped out in the late fall of 1941; he came to bring me my Christmas present early—a huge stuffed Panda bear—because he would be on duty during the holidays and unable to come home. I sat on Bud’s lap and said goodbye; in retrospect, he was just a kid himself, but he was like a member of our family because he spent so much time at our house in Inglewood, CA. My four sisters all volunteered at the U.S.O. and our house was always filled with young servicemen who made our home their home away from home when they were in Los Angeles. The next thing I remember, or at least I was told and now believe I remember, is that my mom, sisters and I were baking cookies that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, when the announcement came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been severely attacked. I don’t recall the unceasing keening of my sister, but I’m told it went on for hours. And, because receiving news was slow in those days, the outcome of individuals on the more than 100 ships and at Hickham Field were not known for weeks.
My sister's life was permanently altered when Bud Heidt died. She became fearful and escaped into being a party girl when she was young. She would later marry and have a child, but when she became terminally ill with Parkinson’s Disease in her early 70s, she dreamily reminisced about Bud Heidt more than any other person in her life; she wanted to tell her stories and show the photos--and those of us who loved her listened and learned. She wanted to go back and relive her life the way it would have been had they married. Bud’s sister was later to tell Donna that he engagement ring had been purchased and went down with him on the Arizona. She was 77 when she died and her daughter still maintains contact with one elderly sibling of the Heidt brothers.
The list of the U.S.S. Arizona dead in the Shrine Room at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
In 1981 I was privileged to visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and I stood before the names in the shrine room and wept—for myself, for the many men and women who died or were injured there, but mostly for my sister who would never visit the memorial herself. The most eerie of all was that oil still bubbles to the ocean's surface around the Arizona. I brought my sis many photos, as other friends had done over the years, which she viewed until they were dogeared. Life Magazine did a retrospective of Pearl Harbor at the 50th anniversary and there were the photos of Bud and Wes in an article about the military changing its policies of placing siblings in the same units. My sister's copy was equally as dogeared as the photos. Because I work with children in a school setting, I think it is important that we continue to teach them the history of our country—and about wars and sacrifice in a personal way. My dad kept press clippings throughut WW II and I periodically take them out to read them. Bud Heidt is not a statistic to me, nor will he ever be, but there will come a day when even the Pearl Harbor Survivors will all be gone. In doing the research for this entry, I found out something I did not know. Any survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona can opt to be buried inside the remains of the ship upon their deaths.
So, I take a moment today to remember all the military and civilian personnel who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor in 1941. And I take another moment to honor our troops fighting now in Iraq, a war I am extremely opposed to theoretically, but I carry everyone in my heart who is there in the name of the United States.