When my husband and I arrived in Waikiki, Hawaii we were tired but thrilled about the events we were going to be a part of. But, as previously stated, that all fell apart while we were in flight. Who knew what a blessing that would be.
While we were preparing to leave, things were changing on the island. One big change was that Ewa Battlefield was declared a historical site, a part of the invasion long forgotten. So we got up early (not hard since we were still on Texas time) and headed out. After the awarding of the three survivors of Ewa were finished and I had awarded them their QOV, my mission was to find any other WWII veterans I could honor with a QOV. I found several.
These men and their families were so surprised and happy. It made the struggle of finding the Battlefield worth it!
B.C. Willborn was born Beverly Clyde Wilbon, he told me to call him B.C., he was just a 20-year-old sailor aboard the USS Maryland when the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor started.
“You just went ahead and done what you was trained to do,” Wilborn said, recalling memories of the fateful day. “Fear wasn’t there but you could see what was going on….bodies in the water.”
Now, 75 years later at age 95, Willborn has made his first return to Pearl Harbor since the attacks. He’s still haunted by what he saw which is why he was in no rush to return.
“I can’t sleep at night,” he said. “I have bad dreams.”
As I read the certificate to C.W. I noticed one tear slip down his cheek and then we unfolded the quilt. As I hugged him I said, “maybe you will find peaceful sleep under your Quilt of Valor“. His eyes welled up again and he choked out thank you so much.
These three veterans were survivors of the attack on Ewa Airfield.
The one in the red is Maj. John Hughes, USMC (ret.). On the morning of December 7, 1941, U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant John Hughes was ready for a quiet Sunday when he looked up to see approaching planes heading straight for the Ewa Morring Mast Field, home of Marine Air Group 21. As the planes got close they opened fire and Hughes saw the red ball insignia that immediately told him they were Japanese aircraft. He quickly headed to the armory for rifles and ammunition. During the attacks on the airfield, most of the marine aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese attackers. Four marines were killed and numerous more wounded.
One of the most famous photos taken during the entire Imperial Japanise air attack on Oahu is of Sergeant John Hughes firing his 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle at attacking Japanese planes. This indelible image has become the iconic symbol of Ewa Field on December 7th.
Eugene Leonard, USMC (ret.) is in the blue shirt and was a Kansas native stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa. He was targeted by some of the earliest bullets fired on that “Day of Infamy.” He found shelter in a scorpion and spider infested hole that had bee used as part of the dirigible program in WWI. “I was trying to get away from the bullets is all I knew,” Gene and his fellow Marines were virtually defenseless. They had few weapons and zero ammunition. When he emerged from his hiding place, he witnessed a chaotic scene which would leave all of the bases’ aircraft destroyed. “Airplanes on fire. Piles of planes a -burning,” he remembers. “All that fuel needed to be burnt. It was burning everywhere.“