Yet, Cleveland resident George Allen escaped harm on that fateful day at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Allen had been stationed there with the U.S. Army on Aug. 13, 1941.
“We went right on the field on alert. They knew something was going to happen they didn’t know what … They didn’t expect (the) Pearl Harbor (attacks),” Allen said.
“We came off alert two weeks before Pearl Harbor day.”
He said many of the American troops were on furlough on the day of the attack.
“Most of the Navy men were on leave,” Allen said.
Allen was on kitchen duty the day of the attacks.
‘”I was outside the barracks right next to the kitchen … when a Jap Zero came around the corner. It took a shot at me and this other guy working in the kitchen.”
As the plane pulled up because of the building, Allen looked to the sky. About 250 Japanese planes met his eyes.
Allen said their formation reminded him of Canadian geese he watched fly over during his time in Maine as a young person.
“You don’t think. The only thing we were worried about was we didn’t have our guns,” Allen said.
Almost immediately, Allen began to hear explosions.
“It took one hour and 12 minutes and they destroyed all our ships except one,” Allen said. “Fourteen of them were sunk or damaged so bad that they couldn’t be used. “
After the attacks, Allen was sent to Australia to undergo further training before joining the New Guinea campaign.
The campaign succeeded in capturing Dutch New Guinea, the northern part of the island.
“At that time now, we didn’t have many men (in the Army). The draft hadn’t started but a few months before this,” Allen said.
Those troops who had been drafted needed at least four months training and many of them were sent to Europe.
Later, Allen was a part of the first invasion in The Philippines at Leyte.
During his time in the Pacific Campaigns, a bed was a luxury the soldiers did not have.
“I saw a bed for four nights in three years, eight months and 12 days. The rest was all in holes that we dug into the ground,” Allen said. “We did not get any relief.”
Allen was treated for blood poisoning during the Leyte invasion and was back at his post two days later.
The blood poisoning was from a piece of shrapnel off a gun that blew up behind him.
He said troops did not get sent home unless they had lost a limb or an eye.
He was also a part of the Luzon and Mindanao invasions.
During his time in the service, he received four bronze stars for serving in the South Pacific, two gold stars and a Presidential citation for service in the Philippines and other awards.
“I enlisted in the regular army at 18 … on Oct. 21, 1940,” Allen said. “I reported for duty at Fort Devens, Mass.”
Allen was a machine gun specialist.
“I was protecting big batteries of artillery,” Allen said.
Correspondence to loved ones back home was unavailable. So when a newspaper in his hometown ran a story bearing the headline about him as a gunman “cheats death twice,” it was the first his family had heard of it.
“They didn’t know if we were dead or alive out there,” Allen said.
The veteran said the attack scenes in “From here to eternity” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” accurately portray the events of that day.
Allen moved to Cleveland six years ago to be closer to his daughter who lives here.