I’ve just returned home from a 4 day visit to the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii. I was there for a business trip, the annual gathering of the Medical Library Association. It has been busy and interesting and on Monday I had a chance to do something I had been looking forward to for months – I visited Pearl Harbor.
My desire to visit Pearl Harbor is very emotionally driven. Though I did not have anyone in my family perish that day, my great-uncle, Lorenza McNair, served in the US Navy during this time and was at Pearl Harbor just days before the attack and would serve on ships fighting in the Pacific Campaign for many months to follow. I’ve blogged some before about his military time, but this visit was a chance for me to revisit what I know about his service and I’ve decided to do a more timeline based approach so I can visualize his experience better.
On December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, my uncle was two days away on the USS Portland, which had left Pearl Harbor as part of a carrier fleet en route to Midway Islands. During our visit, we watched a short documentary before going over to the Arizona memorial and at one point the narrator refers to the USS Portland having been out en route to Midway and I nearly started crying when they said that because it was such a clear reference to where Lorenza was at the time.
Following the attack, Lorenza would stay on the USS Portland, eventually transferring to the USS Neosho. The USS Neosho was one of the ships docked in the line of ships when the USS Arizona was sunken; Neosho was about 5 or 6 ships away from the USS Arizona. Neosho sustained damage, but was repaired and sent back out. Both the USS Portland & the USS Neosho were near each other in the waters at the time, and Lorenzo was transferred to Neosho. He transferred on May 6th, 1942. On May 7, 1942 the Neosho was attached and lost 80% of the crew. My uncle was one of 123 men rescued afterwards.
After the attack, I noted in Lorenza’s records a gap of a few months and I’d wondered where he had been. Then, in re-reading my earlier blog post about his military experience, I realized that in the newspaper article about him that my grandmother had a copy of, it mentions that he was home on furlough after the attack, so that explains the gap in his service records. After his furlough, Lorezna was stationed at NAS San Diego and stayed there for 2 months before going to the USS Enterprise.
Lorenza was on the USS Enterprise from October 8, 1942- until at least September 30, 1943. The USS Enterprise saw a lot of activity during the war and is the most decorated ship of WWII. While on this ship, Lorenza participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and the Battle of Rennell Island.
For it’s service, on May 27, 1943, Lorenza and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew received the Presidential Unit Citation, a citation given for heroic action during Japanese crew in the Pacific. Lorenza’s ship sunk or damaged 35 Japanese vessels and shot down 185 Japanese aircraft.
In November of 1943 Lorenza moved to the USS Hornet where he would stay for the next 13 months. The USS Hornet left Pearl Harbor in March of 1944; Lorenzo was on it then, and during the time period he was on the ship, his records show 27 carrier strikes in which the ship participated. After leaving the ship in December of ’44, Lorenzo was transferred to NAS San Diego again and eventually moved to Shoemaker, CA where he separated from the Navy in December of 1945.
Thoughts of Lorenza were very much with me as I toured the USS Arizona Memorial. I wonder if Lorenza knew any of the people that perished during the Pearl Harbor attack? I am glad that I had the opportunity to visit and be on the same ground that Lorenza had been. I’ve blogged more specifically about my time at the memorial and other info about my trip on my main blog.