Chief Petty Officer Joe George: Pearl Harbor Hero Recognized 76 Years After Saving 6 From Sinking USS Arizona
Lucas Tomlinson reports at Fox News:
An American hero is finally getting recognition 76 years after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ahead of [today's] anniversary, the secretary of the U.S. Navy posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with valor to Chief Petty Officer Joe George, who died in 1996. The news comes five months after Fox News interviewed one of five living USS Arizona survivors, Donald Stratton, who urged the Navy to recognize George's heroic actions that day.
George is credited with saving at least six soldiers aboard USS Arizona as it was sinking after being struck several times by Japanese planes during the attack at Pearl Harbor.
One of the men George saved Dec. 7, 1943, is USS Arizona survivor Donald Stratton. Here is part of Stratton's story, as reported by Fox News:
"We got hit with the big bomb and that exploded like a million pounds of ammunition. The fireball went about 60, 70 feet in the air . . . . The explosion could have taken us away, but it didn't and thank God we made it across." . . .
Trapped aboard the sinking Arizona, Stratton and the others managed to escape the carnage, which killed 1,177 of his shipmates, with the help of a fellow sailor who threw them a lifeline from his own ship moored next to Arizona.
With burns over 60 percent of his body, Stratton had to escape his burning warship.
"We proceeded to go hand over hand across the line about 70 feet," said Stratton. Today, he doesn’t have fingerprints and carries scars across his body, a daily reminder of the horrors he endured at Pearl Harbor.
"The toughest part was reaching the middle of the sagging line stretched across the two ships, and climbing up to the other ship," Fox reports.
"He kept saying, 'Come on sailor! You can make it,' recalled Stratton about his rescuer, who remained a mystery for 60 years," Fox says.
"The man who rescued Stratton and his fellow sailors that day: Joe George," Fox reports. "In his book, All the Gallant Men, Stratton described George as 'perhaps the strongest man in the harbor, an All-Navy Boxer'," according to Fox News.
"Stratton says George disobeyed his captain's order and threw Stratton the line that would save his life," Fox reports.
"It was kind of surreal. You grow up with your dad thinking of him as dad; you're not used to thinking of him as a hero," said George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor," according to Fox. "But it's a wonderful story and I'm quite proud of him. Plus I've gotten to know the men he saved and have developed a real bond with the Stratton and Bruner families."