POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 07, 2012
GOLDSBORO, N.C. » He didn't say much about their discovery — the man whose young sons were taking turns trying on their find in the attic of the family home.
It's been more than 50 years, but Mike Moore can still see hear his father's reaction.
"All he would say was, ‘That's my uniform,'" he said. "That was it."
The boys didn't press him. At the time, they didn't know they had a reason to.
They had no idea that there was a story behind that outfit — that their father, Charlie, nearly died in it when America fell under attack Dec. 7, 1941.
Charlie was leaving a dining hall when the sound of aircraft approaching prompted him to look skyward.
"He looked up and he saw the aircraft with the rising sun on them … and he knew we had a problem," Mike said. "He could see the bullets and the bombs flashing out at the beach … so he runs to the hangar and gets in there and hunkers down."
And when it seemed as though the worst was over, he stepped outside to survey the damage inflicted by the Japanese.
"And here comes wave No. 2," Mike said. "So, Daddy was a welder, so he ran back to the hangar and grabbed a tool, like a pipe … he used to blow into to cool the weld, and ran to the bay.
"He waded out into the bay as far as he could, went underwater, thumbed that tube to keep the water out and left the top out for air. He stayed under as long as he could."
And when he finally emerged, the December sky his eyes had met on his way under had been consumed.
"It was a beautiful Sunday morning and he said, ‘When I came up, I thought it was night. It was so black. There was so much fire — so much burning.'"
Charlie was well into his 90s when he and his wife decided it was in their best interest to move into an assisted-living facility.
Mike was shocked when, as he and his brother went through their parents' house to settle the estate, they made a find more significant than their boyhood discovery. Tucked inside an old desk was proof of their father's presence at Pearl Harbor.
There was a 1941 Gideons New Testament issued to Charlie and his comrades five days before the attack — and a Thanksgiving menu from the dining hall dated the same year.
But perhaps the most poignant reminder of what their father had been through was a faded telegram Charlie sent home from Hawaii days after so many of his comrades fell.
"Satisfied. Well. And working," it reads.
"It should have said, ‘Safe. Well. And working," Mike quipped. "But his life has always been like that. He's the kind of guy who didn't really ever volunteer information unless someone really asked him."