Events that shaped us 

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Q-C men remember Pearl Harbor

By Kate Woodburn, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
Photo by Chuck Thomas / staff
Nelson Elliot, of Rock Island, displays a photo of the USS Nevada. Mr. Elliot was aboard the Nevada durring the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Nevada was moored apart from Battleship Row, which took the brunt of the attack, but was hit by one torpedo and at least five bombs nonetheless. 'I grew up a lot that day,' he said.
For most Americans Dec. 7, 1941, started out like most other Sundays. But by that night things would be different for most of the country, beginning with United States military personnel stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Willard Gilbert

Pharmacy Mate 2nd Class Willard Gilbert of Rock Island was serving in admissions at the naval hospital at Pearl Harbor that morning. His day started a little before 8 a.m.

``I had just relieved the night man and was writing in the log that I had relieved him,'' he said. ``I was writing in the log and I heard these planes, I thought they were our own planes. ... I heard a crash and I said, `One of those planes isn't pulling out.' The mate of the day `turned white as a sheet' and said, `that's not our plane, they're Japanese planes.' ... I don't know how he knew, but he did,'' said Mr. Gilbert.

``Battleship Row and the ships were all right in front of us. I could see pretty good until the smoke got too bad,'' said Mr. Gilbert. About 20 minutes into the attack the first patient arrived at the hospital. Mr. Gilbert said this first victim was a very young man whose knee had been shot off. ``After that, they just kept coming,'' he said.

``When the patients came to the hospital, that was pretty rough. ... The doctors would go along and look at them, if there was nothing they could do for them they would just push them aside. That was the hardest part for us pharmacy mates, having to push aside these men who weren't dead yet, but soon would be,'' said Mr. Gilbert.

The wounded, many badly burned, kept coming in, and ``we were so busy we didn't have time to think,'' he said. The few thoughts he does remember that weren't concentrated on his tasks were things that might go through anyone's head at a time like that.

``I wondered if they were going to hit the hospital,'' he said. ``Of course our hospital didn't have a red cross on it or anything, but they had to know it was a hospital, and they never touched it,'' he said.

Though the hospital itself managed to survive unharmed, it was very close to things that didn't. The USS Shaw's powder magazine was hit and it exploded in front of the hospital. ``At the time that happened it just felt like the hospital raised up about a foot,'' Mr. Gilbert said.

``I was scared ... anybody who says they weren't scared I don't think they're telling the truth,'' he said.

Although the Japanese attack ended after a little more than two hours, the problems had just begun for the Americans stationed at Pearl Harbor.

``I was on duty for about 24 hours. About 4 o'clock that morning after the attack, some of our planes came in, were going to land at Ford Island and, of course, everyone was trigger happy,'' he said. As the American planes tried to land, the Americans on the ground opened fire on them, and four planes were shot down. ``That was pretty devastating,'' said Mr. Gilbert.

Mr. Gilbert was not wounded that day, but it was hard to get that message back home. ``After the attack we couldn't write home and tell our parents for three or four days,'' he said. When they were finally able to try to get word about their condition to their families the messages they could send were limited. ``They just gave us a 3-by-5 card, and we could just say we were OK, nothing about the attack or anything like that,'' Mr. Gilbert said.

He remained stationed at at Pearl Harbor until March 1943, when he was transferred to Great Lakes, near Chicago. He served there until he was sent to a naval hospital at Bear Island. ``I made chief at that station,'' said Mr. Gilbert.

His last station of the war was ``Ie Shima, a tiny island off of Okinawa,'' he said. On May 25, 1945, two weeks after landing on the island, one of Mr. Gilbert's legs was hit. After surviving Pearl Harbor and the rest of the war he lost a leg about three months before the end of it.

Nelson Elliott

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Nelson Elliott, of Rock Island, was not far from Mr. Gilbert. He was on the USS Nevada, which was moored separate from Battleship Row, when an alarm ``sounded at five minutes to eight,'' letting him know that something unusual was going on.

``We thought it was a drill, but we went topside and saw it wasn't,'' said Mr. Elliott. After the Nevada was hit the crew eventually ran the nose of the ship onto the shore, ``so it didn't sink in the channel. Otherwise the channel would have been blocked for days,'' he said.

``We were under attack for over two hours,'' Mr. Elliott remembered. During that time the Nevada and the men on it experienced a lot. They were ``just astern of the Arizona when it blew up,'' he said.

The Nevada itself was reached by one torpedo and at least five bombs. The ship lost three officers and 47 enlisted men. Five officers and 104 enlisted men were wounded. Mr. Elliott was among these men, he said he was ``slightly wounded'' in the surprise attack.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor Mr. Elliott had been in the Navy for a little less than a year. He would serve for the duration of the war, making his naval career ``five years, one month and 14 days,'' Mr. Elliott said without pausing for a moment to figure the time.

Looking back, he said, it's hard to compare anything else he saw during World War II to what he experienced during the attack on Pearl Harbor. ``We didn't know what was going on, but anything after that, during the war, we knew what to do,'' he said.

The only word Mr. Elliott used to describe what he saw that day was ``terrible,'' but he said he could think of ``a couple of words you wouldn't want to print.''

Mr. Elliott was 22 days short of his 19th birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed. That day, he said, he saw things that as a young man he couldn't imagine, but he added ``I grew up a lot that day.''

Gilbert Walker

Gilbert Walker, of Orion, had celebrated his 21st birthday less than two weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked, and had been in the Army for only about three months.

``I just got drafted from Muscatine, Iowa, in September 1941,'' he said.

Mr. Walker was in the middle of a meal when the attack began, ``I was just starting eating breakfast, but I didn't finish. ... They came and cleared out the mess hall, and I ran back to the barracks and started waking people up,'' he said.

Mr. Walker explained that the night before was like most other Saturdays at Pearl Harbor. Many of the men had gone to Honolulu for the night and were still asleep. ``We had it pretty rough from then on,'' said Mr. Walker.

After helping to wake up the men in the barracks, ``we went down to the beach and pulled some Navy guys out of the water and they said `we'll make it, get some of those others,'' indicating other men farther out in the water, which was by then covered with oil.

Even though the casualties were heavy that day, Mr. Walker thinks they could have been much worse. The Japanese forces knew the area well. ``Most of them Japanese pilots, they went to school right there in Pacific Islands'' he said. ``They flew right over us, you could see them laughing,'' he said, adding that they probably could have hit just about everyone on the ground.

Mr. Walker's career in the Army lasted just under four years. He was stationed at Guadalcanal, where ``we loaded five ships up,'' he said, explaining that these ships provided a chance for him to visit home. ``They wanted me to go home for 30 days and then come back. I said, `I'm not coming back, I think I've had enough of this,''' he recalled.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.