Meridian Star

December 7, 2012

‘A date which will live in infamy’

Vet recalls aftermath of attack on Pearl Harbor

By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —      Seventy one years ago today, Lauderdale County resident Lamar Callahan was visiting his brother's home in the community of Clarkdale when a radio broadcast announced that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

    A young man of 20 at the time, Callahan, was not aware of the implications that would follow in the aftermath of the attack that led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, as "a date which will live in infamy."

    "We didn't know what was going to take place," Callahan said. "But I knew we were fixing to get into war the way it was announced."

    The attack that claimed the lives of some 2,400 Americans would propel the U.S.  into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters, spawn an industrial juggernaut and define the Greatest Generation.

    At 91, Callahan's memories of the ensuing war are still vivid.

    On Sept. 14, 1942, Callahan and two twin brothers from Clarkdale drove to New Orleans where they enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Callahan was assigned to a rescue ship that set sail for the Pacific Theater, stationed first at New Guinea and later on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, the last major obstacle between the Allies and Japan.

    "We lost a lot of ships there from Japanese torpedoes," Callahan said. "As soon as we took that island we started in Manila Bay to make sure the Japanese didn't lay any mines under the water.

    "There were two Navy minesweepers. They were wooden, so if they hit a mine they would not blow it up. They let us in and we were the first ship following the minesweepers in. We were the third ship that dropped anchor in Manila Bay."

    Callahan said he and his crew went through some rough times but he was thankful he didn't have to "shoulder a gun like all of those poor Army men."

    Callahan would return home to create new memories, marrying Ann, his wife of 66 years.

    On Dec. 7, 2011, on the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association announced it would disband at the end of that year due to the declining health of surviving members.

    While he built a new life, Callahan said he will never forget the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor and the lives lost that day.

    A head signalman during the war, Callahan's job was to relay messages using flags to airplanes and other ships. He still has the flags he used during the war.

    And he has a message to relay.

    "For a lot of us old worn out World War II veterans this is an important day," Callahan said. "It means something to us and I hope people will remember it."