My Visit to Pearl Harbor

From Hawaii 2009

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.

From Hawaii 2009

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.

Comments (8)

  1. Richard

    great article. interesting, educational and full of emotion – keep up the good work.

  2. TetVet68

    Remember Pearl Harbor — Keep America Alert!

    America’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, living his 100th year is former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM), later wartime commissioned Lieutenant John W. Finn, U. S. Navy (Ret.). He is also the last surviving Medal of Honor, “The Day of Infamy”, Japanese Attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.

    (Now deceased) ‘Navy Centenarian Sailor’, 103 year old, former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM, Combat Aircrewman), later wartime commissioned Chief Warrant Officer Julio ‘Jay’ Ereneta, U. S. Navy (Ret.), is a thirty year career veteran of World War One and World War Two. He first flew aircrewman in August 1922; flew rearseat Radioman/Gunner (1920s/1930s) in the tactical air squadrons of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers, USS LANGLEY (CV-1) and USS LEXINGTON (CV-2).

    Visit my photo album tribute to these veteran shipmates and other Pearl Harbor Survivors:

    San Diego, California

  3. Irish Genealogical Research

    What a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing it. It’s a beautiful, emotional read for anyone with an ancestor who fought in WWII (in my case, a favorite great-uncle and my father-in-law).

  4. Bennie and Aunt Martha

    We, as family, are thankful and touched by all the research and information you are sharing.

    I hope you will find much much more!!


  5. Colleen Young

    Hi ~ My uncle was also aboard the U.S.S. Portland two days out when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I have his diary of what he saw when he returned to Pearl. I had the opportunity to visit the Arizona Memorial in 1988, and I know what you mean when you began to cry. I, too, was deeply affected by the chimes and reading the names of our servicemen and civilians that died that day, and subsequent to it. Today is Memorial Day, and it is a day to remember the freedom that we all enjoy because of the valiant and many sacrifices others have made on our behalf. Thank you!

  6. taneya (Post author)

    Thank you for the comment Colleen. Our family members have given so much haven’t they?. Happy Memorial Day to you.

Comments are closed.