Pearl Harbor hero Joe George

Joe George was a hero on the Day of Infamy when 2,335 Americans were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. George, a boatswain’s mate second class, risked his life and disobeyed orders to save six sailors from the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. But, recognition of his actions alluded him for decades. Now, because of his daughter’s perseverance, and eyewitness accounts from two World War II veterans George saved, he is finally being recognized for his heroic actions.

George disobeyed an order to cut the line between the Vestal, the maintenance ship he was on, and the burning Arizona that had sustained catastrophic damage from the Japanese. Instead, he threw a line to the six sailors he saw on the burning tower of the doomed ship. The rescued sailors then climbed hand over hand from the Arizona to the Vestal.

For over 70 years, recognition for Joe George’s actions was relegated to an entry in his log book. It is possible the Bronze Star eluded him because of the fact that he disobeyed an order to save these men.

In what appeared to be a slam dunk attempt at getting this hero the Bronze Star he deserved, the Stratton family ran into obstacles at every turn as the Navy kicked back the request. Proper recognition was tied up in bureaucratic red tape.

But, this quest got a shot in the arm after Donald Trump became President. Two survivors, and George’s daughter, Jo Ann Taylor, took their cause directly to Washington. They met with President Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis this summer.

Finally, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, Jo Ann got a call that her father would be awarded the Bronze Star on December 7th during a medal ceremony on the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. It will be the first medal awarded on the memorial that sits above the wreckage of the Arizona.

This Pearl Harbor hero died in 1996. He was rather humble about his heroism and his family was unaware of it. But, an unearthed interview he gave in 1978 for an oral history program at North Texas State University (known now as the University of North Texas) helped expose his heroic actions.

The man who saved the sailors from the USS Arizona was unknown. But, George told the interviewer the truth about that day. “I’m that unknown sailor,” he said. “I’m the guy.”

Donald Stratton was one of those sailors George rescued. His son Randy made it his mission to identify his father’s hero and get him proper recognition.

Video about the long quest to honor this hero is below.

Share this if you are glad Joe George finally got the recognition he deserved!

Source: USA Today

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