Don Stratton is one of five survivors left from the sinking of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In this book, he tells us about what he endured on that fateful day, almost 75-years ago.
Of all the books that I have read about Pearl Harbor, this is one of the most personal. The author starts off by discussing his upbringing during the Great Depression. Like many young men, jobs were so hard to come by that joining the military was one of the only options. Don tells us about basic training, and about his train trip across the country to join the mighty Arizona.
This book is full of intimate details that could only be told by an individual who was there and who has had years to think about those days aboard the ship. He tells you about the bands, about the sports team, and about the hammock where he slept. He really makes you feel like you are aboard the USS Arizona.
Don Stratton also takes the time to let you know the wave of emotions that ran through him as he realized that the United States was under attack. Every minute of the brief battle before the USS Arizona suck is told in great detail. The story about how a sailor disobeyed his superior’s order and because he disobeyed, several members of the USS Arizona, including Don Stratton, were able to escape.
We are then taken through the agonizing details of how he had to recover from massive burns. When he was finally healed, he was medically discharged from the Navy. That means he was in California and his family was in Nebraska and he had no way of getting home. He ended up hitch-hiking across the country just to get back home.
Don Stratton was unable to stay at home for very long. Watching the newsreels before the movies caused him to desire to go back and fight. He was a very persuasive individual and he was allowed back in the Navy, provided that he could pass basic training, again. He passed, and he was soon back at sea fighting the Japanese who had taken the life of so many of his friends.
The book then goes on to tell of some of his experiences in dealing with Pearl Harbor ceremonies. It also lays out his frustrations with his commanding officers who had not done their job so that he and his fellow sailors could have been ready to defend the ship and the United States.
Don Stratton will probably not be around much longer. However, Don’s story needs to be read by every American so that we do not forget Pearl Harbor.