On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, American troops had no indication the Japanese were planning an attack on Pearl Harbor, a naval base in Oahu, Hawaii.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, American troops had no indication the Japanese were planning an attack on Pearl Harbor, a naval base in Oahu, Hawaii. What started out as a normal Sunday morning turned into a nightmare that claimed the lives of 2,335 American troops and injured over 1,000. One local man who served during that time shared his experience. James Herring, 94, was just coming out from having breakfast at the Schofield Barracks in Oahu when the Japanese attacked. “We were taken completely by surprise,” he said. “No one was prepared for anything like that. Many were still in bed.” Herring enlisted on March 3, 1940 in Albany, NY when he was 20 years old. He said that those who enlisted had a seven-digit ID number and those who were drafted had eight. He started out at Fort Slocum and then went to Fort Hamilton, both in New York. He was on the USS Republic, which was the only ship with transport troops at the time. Herring and his comrades went to the Panama Canal then to San Francisco, Cali., before disembarking in Ohau. Herring was part of the 24th Division Quartermaster with the Army. He did transportation truck driving. Connected to that division were three Heavy Artillery Battalions, the 724 Ordinance Company and a Medical Corp. He explained that when the Japanese attacked, there was no ammunition. “It was a hectic couple weeks,” Herring stated. “We were next to the air fields.” He added that the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor as well as all of the air fields surrounding it. “It was three days before I saw our ships burning,” Herring said. “I went with one of my friends to find someone over there.” Pearl Harbor is approximately 25 away from the Schofield Barracks. “We were very busy,” he said. “We had to get the troops in the field. We were trying to shoot the Japanese planes down with little ammunition.” Herring stated that there was “a lot of confusion” all around. “I was wondering what was going on,” he said. “We had no inkling about anything happening. It was just a nice, normal Sunday. It was our day off.” He added that if it happened “with peace time now,” that our troops would be “as surprised as we were.” When asked what was going through his head, Herring explained that they weren't able to think of much else besides what was going on. “We were very surprised but nobody panicked,” he said. “We got our orders and did what we had to do. We were so busy we didn't think about anything else except what we had to do and where we had to be. There wasn't much other thought.” Herring said they worked day and night for “quite awhile.” They were moving troops, supplies, barbed wire and other items. “Anything that was needed to be moved, we moved,” he said. “There wasn't enough transportation so we moved the troops too.” After the attack, the Hawaiian Division was split to the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The 8th, 11th and 13th Field Artillery Regiments became part of the 24th and the 19th, 21st, 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments became part of the 25th Infantry Divisions. The 52nd, which was formed later, was also part of the 25th Infantry Division and the 45th Infantry joined the 24th Infantry Division. “My two best friends ended up in the 25th Division and I ended up in the 24th,” Herring said. “We had to move everything from troops to ammunition and bombs for the Air Force.” Herring also said that several Naval Seaplanes had been out and saw the Japanese fleet, “but not in time to give any warning.” “The Japanese were all over the island,” he said. “That's why they hit on a Sunday. There wasn't anything going on.” Herring said any fighting the 24th Infantry Division did was when they were in Dutch New Guinea and the Philippines in 1944. The “First to Fight” became the 24th Infantry Division's slogan. In December 1944, after five years, four months and 27 days overseas, he was done with his deployment and was home. Although he was never injured, Herring had malaria several times. It was at Fort Dix in New Jersey at Hilton General Hospital where he met his wife, Eleanor, who was his nurse when he was there with malaria. They celebrated their 68th anniversary last month. Together, they have three children, Clifford, Bruce and Pamela, along with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. James and Eleanor also went back to Hawaii for the 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Herring received several medals including the Good Conduct medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal and the World War II medal. His youngest son, Bruce, even gave him a flag this past July that has World War II Veteran, the 24th Infantry Division and its insignia and “First to Fight” on it.