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Pearl Harbor remembered

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  Seventy-two years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II, a group of local citizens gathered in McDonough for a special time of remembrance.

L to r: Emory Ashhurst, World War II veteran and Al Brown from American Legion Post 55 gaze at the ceremonial wreath at the 72nd Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony held last Saturday.
                                                       Photo by Monroe Roark

  The Andrew McBride chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored the event at Heritage Park, highlighted by a visit from a special guest from Atlanta who experienced Pearl Harbor in a way no one else can claim.

  Patricia Nagle is the daughter of the late Adm. Samuel Glenn Fuqua, who was the commanding officer on duty on the USS Arizona at the time of the attack. He was credited with saving the lives of those on the ship who survived, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

  Nagle recounted how her father told his superior officer, Cmdr. Kelly, to go home with his family the night before and offered to take his duty. The commander told Nagle later that the seemingly innocent gesture saved his life.

  Fuqua’s own life was spared by providence when he was about to have breakfast that tragic morning and heard what he thought was the beginning of an air raid siren. When he went topside to check it out, he was knocked unconscious on the deck by the blast of an armor-piercing round – but he would surely have perished had he remained below.

  “Every man who ever won the Medal of Honor was lucky,” Nagle said, repeating her father’s own assertion about his award.

  About half of the men who left the ship alive later died due to their injuries, Nagle said. Fuqua told his daughter how he picked up wounded men only to have their skin fall off at times because of severe burns.

  Nagle and her mother were back in Long Beach, Calif., at the time of the attack. The Arizona was scheduled to return there for Christmas, but instead the family waited three weeks without knowing whether Fuqua was alive. They saw an initial newspaper headline that read, “All Hands Dead,” and they feared the worst. But they were contacted later by naval personnel who assured them that he had made it out safely.

  Nagle’s story began when she was ten years old and her family moved to China where her father was stationed in the late 1930s. He retired in the 1950s and relocated to the Atlanta area where he died in 1987, according to his Wikipedia entry.

  His daughter also married a career naval officer, and their union lasted more than 50 years until his death. She now lives in Atlanta and is in great demand as a speaker, having been the guest of honor at the 70th-anniversary Pearl Harbor commemoration in Honolulu.

  More than a dozen of the 50 or so in attendance at the Heritage Park event identified themselves as veterans, and five men stood to signify that they served in World War II.

  McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland welcomed the guests in the early moments of the program, recalling how he was nine years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He and his family listened to radio reports and were quite fearful of what was happening, and most of the community gathered that Sunday at their respective churches to pray for the nation.

  “We continue to be strengthened by patriotism and faith” through events such as Saturday’s ceremony, Copeland told the audience.

  The event was interrupted at exactly 12:55 p.m. Saturday – 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, the moment of the attack – for the ceremonial tolling of the bell and a moment of silence.

The colors were presented by Marine Corps League Honor Guard detachments 1139 and 1196. The group also provided a 21-gun salute and the conclusion of the event was followed by “Taps” which was played by Randy Rawlings.

  Juli Gilbert of the Andrew McBride DAR chapter sang the National Anthem as well as “God Bless America.” Other parts of the program were filled by chapter members Kim Osborne, Pat Rosser, Helen Busbin, Christine Hurst and Sara Jane Overstreet. Nagle was introduced by NSDAR state chairman Becky Rostron.

  The ceremonial laying of the wreath was done by Emory Ashurst, a World War II veteran, escorted by Marine Sam Lites along with Al Brown from American Legion Post 55.

 

 

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