Attack on Pearl Harbor: 3 emotional stories of valor from the region

11:11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 Homepage

The anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, is a time to reflect on American sacrifice and heroism. 

Here are three stories of valor with ties to our region: 

American heroes

In 2016 Rolla “Ed” Malan of Fairborn, and Frank M. Ruby, of Vandalia, shared their stories of surviving the Japanese bombardment of the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. 

TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE
Frank M. Ruby of Vandalia is one of the few living veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ruby celebrated his 100th birthday on Veterans Day at the VFW on Wilmington Pike in Dayton.

Both men were sleeping when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched “Operation Hawaii” and the first of two waves of attacks spearheaded by aircraft carrier-launched warplanes against U.S. battleships at anchor in Pearl Harbor and Army Air Forces planes at Wheeler, Hickham and Bellows airfields. 

Rolla E. "Ed" Malan, who passed away Aug. 19, 2017,  was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Malan was assigned to the U.S.S. Preble, a mine-laying ship, but was staying in the submarine barracks when he saw many Japanese fighter and bomber planes fly by and later witnessed the U.S.S. Arizona explode. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

“The bombers were close to the water and I could see their (pilots’) faces,” said Ruby, who was aboard an oil barge laden with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. “I thought this is going to be my last day.” 

“The noise woke us up,” Malan said. “Planes flying around banging, banging. We didn’t know what it was. One of the fellas got up, went to the window and a plane went by because he said, ‘That’s Japanese.’ And nobody believed him.” 

READ MORE: Pearl Harbor survivor:  ‘I thought this was going to be my last day’

Finally at home

The remains of a Springfield man returned home last year, nearly 75 years after he was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 

Staff Writer
Members of a Navy honor guard carry the remains of William “Billy” Welch to the grave site at Calvary Cemetery. Welch was killed  in 1941 during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and his remains were identified in 2016. Welch, who attended Catholic Central High School, was buried with full military honors. Bill Lackey/Staff

William “Billy” Welch was killed aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma, the first ship to be hit by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. He had just turned 18 a month before. 

Welch’s body was one of hundreds that wasn’t identified after the attack. The U.S.S. Oklahoma sat on the sea bed of Pearl Harbor for months before the victims could be removed from the wreckage. 

Staff Writer
William “Billy” Welch.

Through efforts in recent years by the U.S. Department of Defense, the sailors remains were identified. Welch’s ashes arrived in Ohio in October 2016, draped in a U.S. flag and accompanied off a plane by a Navy crew. 

The ashes of the Springfield native’s remains were buried next to his parents at Calvary Cemetery with full military honors. 

» READ MORE: Springfield man’s remains to come home 75 years after Peal Harbor

» READ MORE: Take time to remember, honor Pearl Harbor

Take time to remember, honor Pearl HarborThe last Doolittle Raider

Dayton native Richard E. Cole is the only living member of the team that bombed Japan in retaliation for the Japanese Navy’s surprise attack against the U.S. fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. 

Ty Greenlees
A Doolittle Tokyo Raiders memorial service and commemoration took place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force marking the 75th anniversary of the mission. Of the 80 Raiders, Dayton native Lt.Col. Richard E. Cole, 101, right, is the last survivor, and was reviled by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, left. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

On April 18, 1942, 80 Army Air Forces airmen climbed into 16 B-25B Mitchell bombers in groups of five to fly off deck of the USS Hornet and travel across hundreds of miles of ocean to bomb Japan. 

Cole was co-pilot to the raid leader, then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, a legendary record-setting aviator.  

Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole 

“There was a bit of scariness but we had trained for 45 days,” Cole said in a telephone interview in April from his Texas home. “We were supposed to light up Tokyo and do as much damage as possible.” 

» READ MORE: WWII 75 years later: 101-year-old Dayton man relives Doolittle Raid

Cole, at 101-years-old, returned to Dayton in April to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the mission. 

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