Reported by Maria Lloyd
Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, marking 72 years since the Japanese attαcked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Just one day after the bοmbing, America entered World Wαr II.
For 93-year-old Nelson Mitchell, today marks 72 years since his near death experience. Mitchell’s grandparents were slαves in Georgia. He spent his youth picking cotton on his family’s farm in Texas. He joined the Navy in 1940, a time when African-Americans could only serve as cook or a captain’s steward, a life Mitchell claims was better than working on the farm. “All of the whites, they could do anything they wanted to on the ship,” Mitchell told a Peoria, AZ news station. “But we were restricted to waiting on the officers. But that was a better life than what I had working on a farm.” He was assigned to the U.S.S. Jarvis, which was stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attαck.
Mitchell vividly recalls where he was and what he was doing when the Japanese strυck. ”I got up, out of my bunk, and the ship was shaking. I looked out and the whole bay was full of fire.” He immediately reported to duty. ”I didn’t have a bαttle station, but I did stay in the pantry and waited on the officers until the bοmbing was over.” Fortunately, the Jarvis wasn’t hít during the attαck and was able to get out to sea, patrolling the Hawaiian coast for a couple of weeks to scout Japanese submarines.
Mitchell walked away from the attαck physically unscathed and was reassigned; however, the fate of the crew members onboard the Jarvis that following August wasn’t as fortunate. The Japanese torpedοed and sank the submarine during the Bαttle of Guadalcanal, kílling all 233 men onboard. Mitchell retired from the Navy in 1948 and took a job working in a warehouse in California. He married and moved to Phoenix, AZ to be with his ailing father. He worked at Luke Air Force base and later as a gardener, a career he retired just three years ago. Mitchell, who will be celebrating his 94th birthday in January, boasts good health. ”It just shows that, I reckon that if you take care of yourself…so far I’ve been pretty healthy,” he said.
Mitchell believes African-Americans who are serving in the military today have a much better opportunity than he did. ”They [African-Americans] can make ranks and can do a lot of different things,” he said. “They have a great opportunity. If they don’t make it, it ain’t nobody’s fault but themselves.” He believes the training African-Americans receive in the military today is top-notch. ”When I was in the service, I was denied that type of training,” Mitchell said. “But one thing about it is, I said that whatever I do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”