Veteran carries vivid memories of Pearl Harbor attack
"This is me and a buddy in Hawaii," says Clifford Hall Jr., "and this ... this is another picture of the barracks."
The "barracks" were Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu where Hall, then an 18-year-old U.S. Army
The enemy planes hit just before 8 a.m.
For Hall and his comrades, it was to have been a normal, relaxed Sunday. Many soldiers were still in their bunks or slowly making their way to the mess halls for breakfast when the first wave of Japanese aircraft arrived over their target areas.
"I was picking up cigarette butts when it happened," Hall said. "Then I saw the planes and I shouted, 'the Japs are shooting at us.' I ran for cover. I wasn't going to stand there and let them shoot me."
Still, Hall and his comrades were quick to retaliate.
Men from the Army's 25th Infantry Division, in which Hall served, manned machine guns to return fire from the low-flying Japanese planes that were strafing the regiment's buildings.
"Part of my job was to get the ammunition for the machine guns although I didn't fire them," Hall said.
Along with Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks was one of several strategic military targets in the area that were hit by the Japanese.
By the time the raids were over, hundreds of planes had been destroyed on the ground and hundreds of men had either been killed or wounded at the various installations.
At Pearl Harbor, five of the eight battleships docked there had either been sunk or were sinking. The rest were damaged.
Several more ships and most Hawaii-based combat planes were also knocked out and more than 2,400 Americans were dead.
It wasn't long before Hall got his own first look at the havoc caused by the Japanese.
"When it was all over, we were ordered down to the beaches near Pearl Harbor to take up positions in guard boxes," Hall said. "A lot of people thought at the time there was going to be an invasion."
As Hall and the troops drove toward Honolulu, they caught their first sight of the thick plumes of smoke still hanging over
"That's when I first saw what they'd done," Hall said. "It was just a big mess. Some ships were still on fire."
Hall found the experience overwhelming.
"I was pissed off and so were a lot of the other guys," Hall said. "I think we could have stopped them. I've always felt Pearl Harbor was a set up because Roosevelt had to save England."
Hall spent the next two weeks on guard duty near Pearl Harbor moving between different places.
Hall, a native of New Milford and now living in Ridgefield, actually signed up to serve in Hawaii after quitting high school in Norwalk and joining the army in March 1941.
"By April, I was there," Hall said. "I'd always wanted to be a pilot and thought I might have a chance to do it there."
After Pearl Harbor, Hall went on with the 25th Division to see action against the Japanese on the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific.
"The Japanese then were crazy," he said. "They'd rather die than surrender. I remember one of them we had cornered who took the pin out of a grenade, placed it in his helmet and then put on the helmet. It blew his head off.''
Once, in another confrontation with the Japanese on the island of New Georgia, Hall was shot in the leg after walking into an ambush.
Hall, now 82, left the service in 1945 as the war ended and got married the following year.
Hall and his wife, Dorothy, who is 80, moved to Ridgefield more than 30 years ago. He is retired from Connecticut Power and Light, where he worked for almost 30 years.
The couple has three grown children, Clifford Hall III , a retired 26-year Army veteran, a daughter, Susan, and a second son, Douglas, an Army lieutenant colonel who has served twice in Iraq.
Hall doesn't talk often about Pearl Harbor.
"We used to go to reunions all over the country and I met a lot of wonderful people," Dorothy Hall said. "He once spoke to our granddaughter about Pearl Harbor because she was writing an article about it but other than he doesn't say much."
Clifford Hall takes a more pragmatic view of his reluctance.
"A lot of my buddies are getting old or have died," he said. "Many people don't even know what Pearl Harbor is any more. They don't talk about it. People forget."
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