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Tuesday, September 30, 2014         

WITNESS TO INFAMY


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Recounting carnage eases nightmares; Bombing shatters dream assignment

By William Cole

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Catharsis of recounting carnage eases a sailor's nightmares

Many years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack Rogo was at a party when his involvement that day came up.

"Somebody said, 'Well, does Jack have any nightmares?' and I said, 'No, I don't have any nightmares,' and my wife says, 'Oh yes he does,'" the 89-year-old North Hollywood, Calif., man said.

Rogo was a Navy storekeeper on Ford Island having breakfast when the bombing started. "There was some anxiety in the mess hall at the time, but the scuttlebutt was that the Army was holding maneuvers," he said.

The realization came when he left the mess hall.

"Why, all of a sudden it just hit me because I'm looking out and I see the California is listing, the Arizona had a bomb in it and it's burning like crazy and, of course, the Oklahoma, the West Virginia and the rest of them, they are all being damaged," Rogo said.

Looking up, he saw the torpedo and dive bombers arcing through the sky.

At first he and others were herded back into the mess hall and told to get underneath tables, but Rogo said he volunteered to help at the Ford Island dispensary.

Small boats were picking up men in the harbor, and he was told to go to a landing, which was burning.

"Right by there I saw a body floating in the water, so I went into the water to go ahead and pull the body ashore," Rogo said. "When I pulled the arm, the arm came off, and that absolutely petrified me."

He dragged an injured man to the dispensary, where there was greater carnage.

"Here were the dying and the wounded, and the doctors and the medics were trying to do all they could," he said.

The wounded had been swimming in a combination of oil and water, and they were choking and hurt.

"Everything becomes a blank," Rogo said of the moment. "I went into the dispensary — they didn't have enough beds or anything. Guys were lying down on the patio and all the vacant spaces. You didn't know which ones were dead, which ones were wounded."

Rogo said he never told anyone about that body he had retrieved until about five to six years ago.

When he opened up and "talked about what I saw, what I did, why, the nightmares seem to have faded away," he said.

 

Explosion of bombing shatters dream assignment for aviator

In 1941, Charles Muckenthaler was a 21-year-old Navy ensign flying PBY seaplanes out of Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay.

"Heaven," is how he remembers the duty. "It really was. Beautiful climate and everything. We worked from 7 to 1 p.m., so we had a lot of time off for playing golf or whatever you wanted to do."

But the storm clouds of war were gathering.

"We were alert to the fact that we had a situation that was developing, and by that I mean war was imminent, and in fact, to show you how imminent it was, our mission was to patrol looking for submarines, primarily."

The PBYs carried depth charges, and the air crews were authorized to bomb any suspect submarines that were spotted in the transit area to Pearl Harbor, he said.

Muckenthaler, like many others, believed a war with Japan would start somewhere else in the Pacific.

On the morning of Dec. 7, Muckenthaler was getting ready to leave his room when he heard machine guns and the roar of fighter aircraft. He looked outside and saw a Japanese Zero on a strafing run.

Muckenthaler and two others raced to their hangar and were heading to a ready room when a bomb exploded in the hangar, knocking them down. One of the three, his friend and Pensacola classmate Joe Smartt, did not get up.

"There was no response from him, and we found out that he was dead," Muckenthaler said. "We found out later he had been hit by shrapnel."

After several waves of attack, the base's 30 PBYs were damaged or destroyed, he said.

He helped take wounded to the sick bay and also grabbed a .45 pistol from the armory.

"After the bombing stopped, then it was a matter of sort of survival," the now 90-year-old San Diego resident said. "All we were doing was complaining about, where was the Army Air Force? There just wasn't anything from the Navy. We were just wiped out."

That night, as it was getting dark, he and some others went up into the hills.

"All the rumors were circulating about the (Japanese) were landing at Kahuku Point and they had changed their uniforms to one that resembled the Americans'," he said.

Muckenthaler went on to fly Hellcat fighters off the carrier Lexington.






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