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Wall of Honor Toasts Pearl Harbor and Normandy Beach Survivors
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Saturday, November 11, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Lynn Flickinger’s father Christopher Harame was a gunner’s mate on the USS Detroit stationed at Pearl Harbor when Japanese attacked Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

But Harame, who is being honored at the Wall of Honor at the new Wood River Museum of History and Culture in Ketchum, shared few details until he penned a book titled “On the ‘Lee Side’ of My Navy Life.”

The Pocatello native’s book tells how he and his buddies tied a Montana kid to the head and foot of his bed, trying to stretch him overnight so he’d meet the Navy’s height requirement. And it told how  the Pacific Fleet had been put on Readiness Alert two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the war in Europe.

In response, Harame and his mates stripped their ship of its canvas awnings and painted the brass fittings so they wouldn’t shine. They catapulted planes, then recovered them at sea. They fired torpedoes, recovering them. And they continually took part in drills, abandoning ship and testing their ability to survive in ocean water.

“We figured the Japanese would attack the Panama Canal to stop the Atlantic Fleet from coming through,” he said. “We didn’t figure they would hit Pearl Harbor. We were too well trained and fortified—it would be like hitting the mainland.”

Harame said he and his shipmates began spotting periscope wakes and periscopes the week before the attack. When they radioed the sub base to get their subs out of the area, the sub base radioed back that all their subs were in port or otherwise accounted for.

The night before the bombings, Harame went into Honolulu. He had a couple drinks, bought a bunch of Christmas cards and returned to ship, anticipating lying on the deck at sunrise the next morning as the dawn patrol flew overhead.

The next morning, he stowed his bedding, got dressed, had chow and lit his pipe as he sat down to address Christmas cards.  He heard a bugle signaling the flag was about to be raised.  Then he heard a tremendous explosion followed by more explosions and the scream of diving planes.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he wrote. “There was, it seemed, hundreds of planes dropping bombs and torpedoes and strafing the ships. Just then the USS Arizona blew up—she was right across Ford Island from us and I could feel the concussion and the heat. It was the biggest flame and black cloud I had ever seen.”

Harame retreated to man the phones. He watched a Japanese plane drop a torpedo intended for his ship only to have it go astern and run up on the beach. A bomb went right through the USS Raleigh, exploding in the mud underneath and sinking it. Another bomb hit the USS Utah, which rolled over on its side and sank.

Bombs dropping on Ford Island set hangers and planes aflame. Sailors tried to put out fires while ducking machine gunfire. Even the ocean was on fire, sending up black smoke clouds.

Harame could hear a cacophony of screaming planes, gunfire and explosions mixed in with the screams of wounded and burned men who lay all over the runways and floated in the burning oil covering the ocean. Motor boats were trying to rescue as many as possible, he said.

After what seemed like an eternity, there was a slight lull. Harame’s ship slipped its mooring and headed for the harbor entrance.

“The USS Nevada was in front of us trying to exit the harbor but she was down in the water and sinking fast. If she stayed on her course, she would sink to the bottom of the harbor and plug the entrance so nobody could get out,” he recounted. “The Japs were still dropping bombs on her from high altitude bombers. Finally, she pulled over to her port side and beached herself.”

The USS St. Louis slid past the Detroit and headed for the open sea with the USS Phoenix right behind her. Harame’s ship followed.

It headed southwest where officers thought the Japanese fleet was, plying the water for survivors and dead along the way. With no sign of the fleet, the ship headed to the choppy seas of the North Pacific where on the fourth day it found four torpedo wakes headed at it.

We were doing 25 knots and did a hard 90-degree towards the torpedoes,” Harame recounted. “We just about capsized. We were riding high in the water out of fuel. They missed us by just a few inches.”

On the fifth day, nearly out of fuel, Harame’s ship headed back for Pearl Harbor. His heart sank as the ship entered the harbor.

“There were fires still burning. Battleship Row--once all beautiful gray dreadnoughts--was burned and capsized, just a bunch of scrap iron. The USS Nevada was still stuck in mud and a thick layer of ugly black oil covered the once beautiful clear water of Pearl Harbor.”

Harame’s crew dragged the harbor with grapnel hooks, bringing a miniature Japanese sub to the surface. Armed patrols cruised the harbor to prevent raiding parties from boarding the ships that had survived. Hangers and barracks were broken and burned. Burned planes littered the tarmac. Only the sub base and fuel depot were untouched, he recounted.

Harame is one of a few dozen veterans honored on the Wall of Honor at the museum, which is catty-corner from The Community Library. Those honored include Andy Henning, who served in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy and authored Idaho’s first backcountry ski guide, and Nelson Bennett, who taught skiing to the 10th Mountain Division, headed up Sun Valley’s Ski Patrol and managed the U.S. alpine ski team at the 1956 Olympics.

Cruger Thomas who moved to the Wood River Valley in 1985 opted to fire big cannons and long-range rifles for the Marine Corps in Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s because he liked the Marine uniform.

Corp. Robert Totton Isham landed on Normandy two weeks after D-Day and, as a forward observer for the U.S. Army, saw active duty almost continually until the end of the war in May 1945. When he came home after earning five battled stars and a bronzed star, one of his great pleasures was playing Ketchum’s nine-hole Warm Springs golf course because it reminded him of the small Midwestern courses of his youth.

Carter Hedberg honored his late father Chester Hedberg, who fought in the Battle of Okinawa and was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in the Battle of the Philippines. And he honored his sister Susen Hedberg, who joined the Army on her 18th birthday eager to leave the small Minnesota town where she grew up to serve in Vietnam. The psychiatric nurse spent most of her service helping soldiers who had served in Vietnam at a hospital at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.

Daniel Ward told how his grandfather Dick “Grampy” Ward met his wife on a blind date in Tokyo where he served as lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps in the mid-1950s. And Gerry Morrison told of his father Corp. Wendell W. Morrison, who served in the U.S. Army’s 146th Field Artillery during World War I and was awarded a Silver Star for carrying a wounded soldier to safety under heavy shell fire.

Charles Donnelly, served in the 77th Calvary Reconnaissance fighting in Iwo Jima, Guam and Okinawa, earning a Bronze Star for bravery. He then established a veterinary practice in Twin Falls from which he spent decades caring for cows and dogs in the Wood River Valley. Rarely did he make the drive without stopping at a trout stream along the way.

Richard Eichenberg, grandfather of Erin DeJong, flew 50 missions as a sergeant in the 483rd bombardment group from April 1943 to May 1946. On his last mission before being sent home, his plane was shot down, crash landing into a German mine field. He was rescued by Tito’s Partisans and taken to a British cruiser off the coast of Yugoslavia.

He spent the next 17 months in various military hospitals, after which he was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries incurred in the line of duty.

Brigid Miller, community engagement manager at the museum, said several school groups have visited the museum’s inaugural Wall of Honor, which will be on display through Nov. 22.

“They’re learning about the different branches of the military—things like that,” she said.

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