Character Number Twenty-Eight

And then there was Ed Bukrey.

I first met Ed Bukrey in 1980 when I joined Champions Golf Club in Houston. We had just moved from Jacksonville, FL and our house was within the holes of one of Champion’s two courses.  I was welcomed to the inner club of week-end golfers, the Forty Thieves and Ed was an 18 handicap and I was a 10 handicap so we were often on the same mixed handicap teams.  Ed told me that he had spent a lot of money on golf lessons but I was the first to give him tips that helped him improve his game.  Mainly, I had helped his short game very much and he was enjoying playing better.  He was so grateful that he insisted on taking Doris and me to the best steak-house, Del Friscos near the Champions community. The restaurant was owned by a daughter of one of our immediate neighbors and she got sued for copying the restaurant name.  She ultimately lost her battle and was so angry she sold the establishment and moved away.  It changed the entire quality and the menu and failed in a year.  I found out that Ed worked for a publisher whose major product was bibles and Ed travelled the country promoting and selling them.  I also discovered that he was a survivor of the infamous Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941.  He was modest about this and although he had a car license plate saying, “Pearl Harbor Survivor”, it was in his trunk and not on his car.

Ed Bukrey was 20 and was a Seaman, First Class on one of the many naval support ships in the harbor during the two major attacks. His ship was hit first by a torpedo that was launched by one of the seven miniature submarines, all of which were sunk during the raid.  While Ed was helping with the wounded, the ship was also hit by a bomb, causing extensive damage.  Ed described it as “thirty minutes of hell”.  He had been twice to the annual Remembrance Ceremonies in Hawaii that included a re-union of surviving ship-mates.  He said that he would not go to any more as it was too emotional for him as there were fewer survivors each year.

This undeclared invasion of an important part of the US caused Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare war on Japan. This quickly brought in Germany and Italy on the Japanese side and Britain, Canada, France and Belgium with the US, thus creating WWII.  Winston Churchill was jubilant but disguised it well.  Britain badly needed the US involvement in a failing fight with Germany and Italy but there was strong political opposition in the US until Japan made it inevitable.  Japan was punished and more than repaid when Harry Truman made the fateful decision to use nuclear force at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is 75 years since the Pearl Harbor attack and, after we defeated Japan and have helped in their recovery, our relation today is one of friendship. The Japanese decision-makers in 1940 and 1941 wanted to protect their illegal invasions and land-grabbing in the Philipines, Indonesia, Manchuria and American, British, French and Dutch properties in and around the China Sea.  They were building a protective fleet of ships but were very much afraid that the US would decide to attack to recover the ill-gotten gains before their ships would be ready.  Thus, they decided, the only way they could safely protect their new acquisitions was to attack the sleeping giant US fleet when their intelligence said they were all together in dock at Pearl Harbor. They were victorious in reducing the power and lengthening the response time of the US Fleet.

The Japanese plan was excellent and its execution performed well.  They only lost 29 of the 414 total available planes and 64 men.  353 of the planes were launched in two waves from their six aircraft carriers located close to Oahu   They were concerned that the shallow waters at Pearl would allow the US to re-float sunken ships easily.  Four of the major vessels were re-floated and participated in later attacks on Japanese ships.  They modified their torpedoes to operate in shallow water and they functioned perfectly, sinking a total of 18 ships including 5 battleships, the major fighting vessels.  A total of 2,216 uS sailors and airmen were killed and 774 wounded and the major part of the Pacific Fleet was neutralized for months.  The Japanese plan to have a third wave to bomb the dry-docks, the oil tanks and the submarine base was not executed and this failure of a probable crippling of the US recovery efforts was a major Japanese mistake.  The Japanese intelligence did not know that the three largest aircraft carriers were not in port.

I saw Ed a short time before he died and he was one of 2,500 living survivors out of the original 60,000.  Seaman Ed Bukrey said he has no idea how he survived but maybe Ed’s career of distributing printed bibles had something to do with it.

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