ST. MARYS — On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched their surprise attack on what has been possibly the most infamous battle in U.S. military history — Pearl Harbor.
The attack, known as Operation Al by the Japanese, was secretly planned by Japanese military leaders while Japanese ambassadors were in active negotiations with U.S. federal officials regarding oil, parts and tools. There was no formal warning.
Sgt. Francis Carmean, 93, of St. Marys, was in charge of a tank fleet at the time of the attack. By his own self-admission, Carmean said “my mind does not work quite is once did.”
However, he recalled that day like it was yesterday, A day which pushed the United States into World War II and caused President Franklin Roosevelt to call it, “A date that will live in infamy.”
“I was a younger boy,” Carmean said.
Carmean had a unique perspective on the account. While advancing a tank into position, it broke down and was rendered inoperable.
“I was just sitting there,” Carmean said. “The thing fell apart on the way.”
However, Carmean was close enough to hear the attack, describing the attack in simple words.
“You could hear the bombs,” Carmean said. “Boom, boom, boom all around you.”
While Carmean’s experience obviously left a lasting impression with him, he admitted that time has calloused the pain of the ordeal. He even manages to keep a slight tint of a sense of humor about it.
“Well, I figured one of two things could happen,” Carmean said. “I’m either going to make it or I am going to get killed. I made it.”
For the rest of his time in the service, Carmean served in the 751st Tank Battalion, and was fortunate enough to have his wife with him wherever he was stationed. He said his wife offered him plenty of support. Carmean and his wife, Grace, now reside at Golden Living Center-Valley Nursing Home in St. Marys.
“She is a great woman,” Carmean said of his wife.
There had been plenty of anti-war sentiment prior to the attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attempt by the Japanese to control the vast Pacific Ocean. The Japanese had signed a treaty with Germany and Italy to limit U.S. involvement in war as the three countries attempted to gain territory. The attack eliminated all anti-war sentiment overnight.
“It was the event that made people get a hold of what was going on,” Carmean said. “It was a rallying point.”
He said war was scary, but he was proud of his service.
“I figured someone was going to kill me right away, but they didn’t. I made it,” Carmean said. “Time goes by slow and it feels like you are there a long time, but I am proud of my service. I’ve done something that many wouldn’t do.”